Thursday, September 5, 2002

Smart Letters

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer today had a nice riposte to an idiotic letter published on August 25th. Before I quote the letter, let me set up some background.

The P-I printed this article about wiretaps and the FBI on August 23rd. The article contained these two graphs, near the end of the piece:

The court said the FBI admitted in September 2000 to mistakes in 75 wiretap applications, including then-FBI Director Freeh's erroneous statement to judges that the target of a wiretap request wasn't also under criminal investigation.

The court also noted that in March 2000, information from espionage wiretaps in at least four cases was passed illegally to FBI criminal investigators and U.S. prosecutors in New York. Clearly frustrated, the court said it barred one FBI agent from appearing before it.

This article, including the above two paragraphs, inspired this reply:

Now that the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has slapped the hands of John Ashcroft, the Justice Department and the FBI, it appears the concerns of flaming liberals have come to pass.
Wide unchecked police powers will eventually be abused. For those of us who have never trusted Ashcroft, this judicial rebuke underscores why we don't.
Individuals who espouse unwarranted secretiveness, an outspoken desire for unlimited powers and a history of obfuscation need to be watched closely. Unfortunately for Americans, the president, vice president and attorney general all fit that description.
Alan Cook

Today's letter slaps the first one down by pointing out a few facts:

On the Aug. 25 Letters to the Editor page, Alan Cook writes, "Now that the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has slapped the hands of John Ashcroft, the Justice Department and the FBI. ... "
It is too bad Cook did not do some investigation before writing his letter. A simple Web check will find out the facts. The 75 cases the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court reported on were all committed before September 2000. Who was the head of the Justice Department then? Janet Reno. Who was found to have lied in one of the cases? FBI Director Louis Freeh. Who was president? Bill Clinton.
To paraphrase Cook: Unfortunately for Americans, the president (Bill Clinton), vice president (Al Gore) and attorney general (Janet Reno) all fit the description of individuals who espouse unwarranted secretiveness and a history of obfuscation.
Ray Goforth

A Google search shows that Mr. Cook is not a fan of the current administration by any stretch of the imagination. This May 26th letter to the Seattle Times has him fulminating over Vice President Cheney; conversely this letter has him praising the Blue Angels and Seafair (Seattle's annual community/maritime/military festival), although not the timing.

Mr Goforth, interestingly enough, is probably also not much of a fan of the current administration. His personal site includes his curriculum vitae, and between his work for Greenpeace and a Union local, his "Progressive Law Student" page, and his internet 'zine Social Justice, he doesn't appear to be a right-wing ideologue. Apparently, Mr. Goforth feels that the truth trumps ideological considerations, a refreshing change of pace.

posted at 06:57 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Stupid Letters

Today's Seattle Times had a letter to which I feel compelled to respond.

Naarah Hastings' letter condemns Islam for "acts of oppression, murder, rape, torture, displacement, hatred and forced conversion." The Islam Hastings describes fits Christianity's entire history. Shockingly, Christian conversion campaigns targeting Jewish and other non-Christian children today are OK.

There is a vast difference between forced conversions (as practiced in Arabic Muslim nations) and missionary work, which compels nobody, and does not advocate oppression (such as the treatment of women), rape (such as what occurred in Pakistan), torture (such as homosexuals being buried alive), and hatred (Palestinian schoolbooks actively target Jews). Equating the two is obscene.

President Bush welcomes American Christian missionaries to the White House who were imprisoned overseas by radical Muslims. Their imprisonment was horrible, but missionary work shows utter contempt and hate for its victims, too. Why? To tell children of one faith their religion is "inferior" and has been superseded by a "newer, better" one is hateful, demeaning and condescending.

We'd all be worshipping plants and trees today if not for missionary efforts. At one time or another, all converts to any religion were told (implicitly or explicitly) that their religion was inferior to another. If you choose to believe (or not), that is your right. While I have little time for religious proselytizers, I do not consider it hateful, demeaning, and condescending , unless they become overtly insulting of my chosen religious beliefs (or lack thereof, as may be the case).

Of Islam, news reports estimate 1 billion-plus Muslims worldwide. There are 60,000 or so actively involved in violent anti-Western activities and 1 million to 2 million sympathizers. Gross generalizations and incorrect facts offer nothing useful to students and teachers.

The largest Islamic nation in the world is Indonesia, with which the United States enjoys relatively cordial relations. Malaysia, Phillipines, Albania, Bosnia, Nigeria, and several other nations have large Islamic populations, but they are not the Arabic nations that hate the Israelis (and by extension America). And considering the polls of Arab nations that show support of Anti-Israel and Anti-US groups running at well over 50%, the 1-2 million figure cited is far too low.

Looking for scapegoats other than a non-existent "leftist elite"? When American oil companies remove oil from Nigeria and leave nothing but crushing, grinding poverty, we hand radical Muslims a silver platter. Thousands of young children earn 90 cents a day in Ghana and the Ivory Coast harvesting the cocoa bought by Nestlé and Hershey for our insatiable appetite for chocolate.

The grinding poverty in Nigeria is not the fault of the American oil companies, it is the fault of the corrupt series of Nigerian governments that have mismanaged that country's finances since it achieved independence in 1960. And if the Nestle and Hershey were to stop purchasing their cocoa from Ghana and Cote D'Ivoire, would the children now earning 90 cents a day suddenly find a better-paying job elsewhere? Sweatshops are only offensive to those who have other ways of earning money. Nicholas Kristof discussed this in a June column (I blogged about it here).

Where's morality, political correctness and ethics?

Morality and ethics are right where they should be. Political correctness should have been checked at the door; I don't subscribe to that point of view, and I don't want to see it in here.

Akiva Kenneth Segan, director, Holocaust Education Through Art, Seattle

Mr. Segan is a well-known and widely exhibited artist. He is also on record as opposing the "occupation" (here is a copy of the ad to which he is a signatory).

posted at 06:03 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Required Reading

As many of you have probably read, the Commanding Officer of the USS Kitty Hawk was recently relieved of his command. However, if you read the Times (of London), you were done a grave disservice. The article began reasonably enough, with a recounting of the factors that led to his dismissal. However, the article devolved into an absolutely inexcusable trashing of the US Navy, with a willful ignorance of the facts. Dodd Harris, at Ipse Dixit (and a former sailor himself), fisks the moron who wrote the article, and clears the air. It is required reading for those who still think of all sailors as knuckle-scraping deck apes who possess room-temperature IQ's and never see the sun. The inexcusable attempts to portray the navy as racist are laughable coming from the British, who as a society are far more racist than the America of the 21st century. I have spent four years (actual days, not approximations) aboard our aircraft carriers, and what the writer describes is *not* even close to the truth.

**UPDATE: 05Sep/1400—A comment at Cut on the Bias from John Anderson, quoting a marine, eloquently captures my feelings on the subject of the military.

posted at 10:40 AM | permalink | Comments (3)

Whilst I agree that was a ludicous article, I think you are quite wrong that British society is more racist that that in the USA. I believe it is quite the other way around. Of course as we are both talking in such broad sweeps, it is eazy for us both to find examples to support our respective views.

posted by Perry de Havilland on September 5, 2002 12:09 PM

Point taken. Both Britain and America are bastions of racial and ethnic harmony compared to much of the world. I was thinking of the recent elections in Oldham when I composed my above post, and the race riots that occurred in Bradford, Toxteth, and Brixton in recent years. Of course, we have had the Rodney King fiasco, and the events in Cincinnatti, Philadelphia, and New York. Compared to the genocide in the Balkans, in the middle East, and in Rwanda and Burundi, however, they pale into insignificance.

I find it appalling, however, at the swipe the authors took at the navy, since the military has been fully integrated in this country far longer than the civilian sector. The general tone of the article was something I'd expect from the Guardian or the Independent, not the Times.

When I am in the US, the shop in which I work, while 85% white, has three blacks (one female and two males) in charge, entirely unlike the picture painted in the Times article.

The number of factual inaccuracies and smears in the article would have been slanderous had they been directed toward a private individual. I am still shocked that the editor let such a piece run in a respected newspaper; even the New York Times would not have released such tripe.

posted by timekeeper on September 5, 2002 01:40 PM

Don't overestimate the NYT :).

posted by susanna on September 6, 2002 12:03 AM

Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Lies from the NYT

"If you cannot defeat a nomination with facts, then lie."

This appears to be the attitude of the New York Times editorial board, under the wretched leadership of Howell Raines. As they did with the Charles Pickering nomination (and perhaps emboldened by its success) they are distorting the facts or fabricating evidence in an attempt to kill the nomination of Priscilla Owen. This editorial reads like a press release for People for the American Way, which has been attempting remarkably similar distortions of the facts surrounding Owen.

Priscilla Owen, President Bush's latest nominee to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, has been at times so eager to issue conservative rulings in cases before her on the Texas Supreme Court that she has ignored statutory language and substituted her own views. This criticism comes not from the "special interest groups" she has charged with misstating her record, but from Alberto Gonzales, President Bush's own White House counsel. Mr. Gonzales, who served with Justice Owen on the Texas high court, once lambasted her dissent in an abortion case for engaging in "unconscionable . . . judicial activism." Mr. Gonzales says today that he nonetheless supports the elevation of Justice Owen. We do not.

This is an outright lie. The opinion that the New York Times is referencing attacks a dissent from another judge, who arrived at the same conclusion as Owen in a different fashion. He specifically named Justice Hecht not once, but twice, and did not name Owen at all. In his Jane Doe 1(II)concurrence, after citing Justice Hecht's criticism, Justice Gonzalez wrote: "The dissenting opinions suggest that the exceptions to the general rule of notification should be very rare and require a high standard of proof....Thus, to construe the [statute] so narrowly as to eliminate bypasses, or to create hurdles that simply are not to be found in the words of the statute, would be an unconscionable act of judicial activism."He concluded his concurrence by responding to Justice Hecht's additional criticism in the present case: "Justice Hecht charges that our decision demonstrates the Court's determination to construe the [statute] as the Court believes [it] should be construed and not as the Legislature intended....I respectfully disagree."

In choosing a nominee for the Fifth Circuit — the powerful federal appeals court for Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana — President Bush has looked to the extreme right wing of the legal profession. Even on Texas' conservative Supreme Court, Justice Owen has distinguished herself as one of the most conservative members. A former lawyer for the oil and gas industry, she reflexively favors manufacturers over consumers, employers over workers and insurers over sick people. In abortion cases Justice Owen has been resourceful about finding reasons that, despite United States Supreme Court holdings and Texas case law, women should be denied the right to choose.

In other words, she doesn't support the left-wing agitation lobby representing the trial lawyers and their allies. As for the abortion issue, all of the hysteria revolves around her support of a Texas law that requires parental notification (note the emphasis) of only one parent (again note the emphasis) when a minor has an abortion. There are three exceptions to this law, which serve to weaken the oppressive nature of the law (sarcasm mine). This law does not in any way prevent a minor from having an abortion, although it might have the effect of preventing some teenagers from getting an abortion due to concern about their parents' reaction. Nonetheless, parents have the right to know about any medical procedure performed on their children as long as the child lives with them.

Regarding the parental notification, Justice Owen has stated that "[t]he constitutionality of requiring a minor to notify both parents is questionable". Is this the voice of an ideologue?

None of the cases appearing before the Texas Supreme Court dealt in any way with abortion rights, save the cases which challenged the parental notification law. In fact, Owen has never stated her personal views on abortion, and will likely continue to refuse to answer the question.

Justice Owen's views are so far from the mainstream that, on those grounds alone, the Senate should be reluctant to confirm her. But what is particularly disturbing about her approach to judging is, as Mr. Gonzales has identified, her willingness to ignore the text and intent of laws that stand in her way. In an important age discrimination case, Justice Owen dissented to argue that the plaintiff should have to meet a higher standard than Texas law requires.

I cannot find anything resembling a balanced commentary on this case; the only references I an find are from PFAW and Democrat Underground and similar extreme left groups that oppose her. The little I can find on this case shows that Owen was in the minority in a case that involved ambiguous jury instructions regarding the Texas age discrimination statute. Further, the employee in question had never had stellar performance reviews, and when they declined into unacceptable levels for two years running, he was terminated. The majority decision was a profound setback for businesses, as it made age discrimination claims much easier to prove.

Justice Owen has also shown a disturbing lack of sensitivity to judicial ethics. She has raised large amounts of campaign contributions from corporations and law firms, and then declined to recuse herself when those contributors have had cases before her. And as a judicial candidate, she publicly endorsed a pro-business political action committee that was raising money to influence the rulings of the Texas Supreme Court.

Please show me a judge who has to be reelected who does not raise money from special interest groups; unions are special interest groups, as are the chamber of commerce, the Sierra Club, and a condo association that supports a resident in a run for the city council.

While it isn't explicitly spelled out in the article, they are probably referring to Enron, which contributed to Owen's reelection campaign. Of the six cases regarding Enron that appeared before the Texas supreme court during Owen's tenure, she only explicitly supported Enron's position in two of them; she voted against Enron in two, took a neutral position in one, and recused herself in the last. If being her biggest single supporter results in her supporting them only 33% of the time is the issue, I'd say that she seems disdainful of her supporters.

After the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected Judge Charles Pickering, another far-right choice, for a seat on the Fifth Circuit earlier this year, the Bush administration declared that it would not be intimidated into choosing more centrist nominees. Sadly, the administration has lived up to its threat. In this dispute the Senate is right: the administration should stop trying to use the judiciary to advance a political agenda that is out of step with the views of most Americans.

The New York Times used a position paper issued by Pickering over 40 years ago to paint him as a racist. At that time, Robert Byrd (D-WV) was still donning his white sheet as a KKK wizard. However, because Byrd supports the NYT's pet issues, he has "grown" while Pickering must be evil because he's still a nasty Republican.

My fondest wish is that the GOP regains control of the senate in November, and Bush resubmits the Pickering nomination, which would sail through a GOP-dominated Judiciary committee, and since several Democratic senators have expressed support for Pickering, the full senate would almost certainly confirm him. Wouldn't that just piss off Leahy, Schumer, and Clinton? (grin)

Justice Owen is a choice that makes sense for Justice Department ideologues who want to turn the courts into a champion of big business, insurance companies and the religious right. But the American people deserve better. Justice Owen's nomination should be rejected.

Lots of innuendo, and little substance. About par for the course, when one is discussing the direction of the New York Times. Nowhere does the Times document her unsuitability for the court, only her views which do not dovetail with theirs.

Even the liberal leaning ABA likes her; she received a unaminous "Well Qualified" rating from the ABA judicial review committee, an unusual occurance. If she were not suited, does the Times think the ABA would rubber stamp her approval? One only need look at the Robert Bork case to realize the folly of such thoughts.

posted at 06:43 PM | permalink | Comments (1)

If President Bush and the pansy-ass Republicans in the Senate can't bring themselves to stand up to the Democrats, scream bloody murder, and vow as a party to NEVER vote to confirm ANY Democrat nominee for ANY position EVER until the Senate rules are changed, then they don't deserve to win this fight -- or to retake the Senate.

posted by Spoons on September 5, 2002 08:08 AM

Palestinian Wakes Up

The Jerusalem Post reports that a former Palestinian Authority cabinet minister has accused Arafat of dropping the ball at the Camp David meeting with Ehud Barak two years ago.

The interesting thing, according to the article, is that the letter was published in the official PA newspaper in Ramallah, which reaches a very small audience. The fact that it was printed at all in Palestianian controlled media is surprising; the fact that it appeared in an official publication is shocking.

Perhaps more Palestinian leaders will follow the example of Nabil Amer and call for an end to the intifada. It would be nice, but I don't think it will happen soon.

posted at 05:07 PM | permalink | Comments (1)

If Arafat's lost control of the media, then there's hope that the dogs he's kept so closely on his leash will end up tearing his throat out.

Probably closer to the truth that Arafat is telling his papers to allow "dissenting views" to smoke out disloyal lieutenants and followers, and then make them artgets of the Al'Aqsa Murder Brigade.

posted by Laurence Simon on September 4, 2002 05:42 PM


Nick Schulz, writing in National Review, explains why the environmental NGO's are really anti-poor. The article doesn't break a lot of new ground, but it is well written and nicely organized.

posted at 04:57 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Another Meme

This one's been making the rounds, but I came up with a different result than most of the people.

What revolution are You?
Made by altern_active

(Link via Trojan Horseshoes.)

posted at 04:42 PM | permalink | Comments (1)

I got that one, too. :-)

posted by The Dodd on September 5, 2002 12:48 AM

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