Per Curiam
-- A man has to do something for a livin' these days

-- Bloggin' ain't much of a living, boy
Saturday, May 01, 2004
Breathless non-story of the day: FBI Got Records on Air Travelers, screams the New York Times. Apparently, the reason this story receives a headline is that:
Airline industry officials said they could not remember another such sweeping request. In the past, airlines have routinely provided data to the F.B.I., but typically requests concerned the passengers on a single flight, or the travel patterns of an individual passenger...

[T]he disclosure that airlines had handed over such an enormous trove of data directly to government criminal investigators... raised red flags among privacy advocates."
Uh huh. And can anyone remember "another such sweeping" terrorist attack? We grounded every airplane in the United States for days -- does anyone really think that searching the manifests of single flights would have been an appropriate investigative technique?

Supporters of privacy sometimes have good things to complain about. In this case, they're making it hard for anyone to take them seriously. I'm left wondering if they even remember 9/11.

Friday, April 30, 2004
The conservative obsession with french fries: It's not clear to me why, but french fries appear to be near-and-dear to the hearts of many conservatives. First was the "Freedom Fries" circus during the early stages of the Iraq war -- despite many jokes, I never saw anyone actually serve "Freedom toast" or "Freedom roast coffee" at breakfast.

Now comes the media coverage of students at Lancaster Middle School in Texas. Sixth-grade girls are fighting to keep the state Department of Agriculture from eliminating fries from public school lunch menus. And in just a couple of days, they've received considerable attention - primarily from the conservative media.

Today's WSJ Taste page had the story, and a Google News search reveals the following other sources: Fox News, Washington Times, New York Post. Hmm.

I can understand why banning fries might be a heartfelt issue: manyof us probably have enough a significant amount of arterial deterioration attributable to the fries we've consumer. But why conservatives are particularly attached? I don't know.

Thursday, April 29, 2004
Obscure government official of the day: Hilda Gay Legg - Administrator of the Rural Utilities Service, which appears to focus on bringing broadband Internet service, digital public television, and surplus fire trucks to rural areas. At least it's no longer called the Rural Electrification Administration.

Jordan plot: The Journal is spot-on with today's editorial wondering how the foiled terrorist attack, employing chemical weapons in Jordan has received so little coverage in the U.S. media.

Here's a description of the planned attack from Jane's News Service:
Statements released by the Jordanian government have revealed an elaborate plot by Al-Qaeda associated terrorists to first attack the Jordanian General Intelligence Department (GID), the Jordanian Prime Ministry and the US Embassy in April of 2004 with a massive Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) and to then disseminate chemical agents that would affect a much broader area of Amman.

According to statements released by the Jordanian government, the perpetrators planned to use rocket propelled grenades to suppress the GID compound's perimeter defences while simultaneously driving a large truck through its protective barricades and into the heart of the compound. The truck's explosives would then be detonated, incapacitating or killing all security personnel and leaving the compound open to the second phase of the planned attack.

The second phase would involve carefully positioned vehicles laden with chemical agents. Vehicles laden with agents could be driven slowly due to the fact that security personnel would be incapacitated by the initial blast. After the vehicles were carefully positioned, chemical agents could then be dispersed into the compound and the surrounding area.

Such a release, according to Jordanian security officials, would have resulted in the deaths of most of those who survived the initial explosion as well as many others in the city surrounding the GID. Outside of the compound, officials estimated that as many as 80,000 people may have been killed with an additional 160,000 wounded. This potential for loss of life is comparable to that which occurred during the fire bombings of Dresden and Tokyo during the Second World War
Here's one theory why news coverage has been limited, however: like many of the other semi-autocratic regimes that we count as our "allies" in the Middle East, Jordan significantly limits press freedoms. As a result, the only information coming out of Jordan, whether by the U.S. media or anyone else's, is carefully controlled by the government. Ironically, Jordan used to be a more open society: this report, by Freedom House, chronicles some of the changes.

Hedging your bets: As criticism of Sen. Kerry widens over his tendency to "straddle" or "hedge," I'm starting to wonder about the overlap between his critics, and those that criticize the Bush administration for creating an excessive appearance of certainty about intelligence conclusions.

In theory, there's an intellectually-coherent position that would allow the Kerry campaign to portray their candidate's attempts to have things both ways as a more truthful way to deal with the American people, especially in situations where facts are uncertain, or issues are unclear. Especially on close decisions, a position taken contextually may be better than one that strives for consistency across all situations.

It's troublesome for politicans, though -- because a lack of consistency leaves them vulnerable to an interpretation that they are engaged in poll-driven leadership, and Americans generally hunger for candidates who are principled, even to the point of near-absurdity. That explains why President Bush can get away with his inability to articulate the mistakes that he's made, while Sen. Kerry even gets attacked for noting (fairly) that "we may yet find" WMD in Iraq.

A Tale of Two Drug Busts: One need only look to today's New York newspapers to have an idea why drug laws could be considered racist, or at the very least, biased based on class. In short, these laws impose massive penalties, often much higher than murder, but only against the poor (often minorities) that cannot afford high-priced legal defenses.

Consider the case of Elaine Bartlett. In the early 1980s, she was a 26-year old mother of four scraping by through work as a hairdresser. She decided to make a quick $2500 by transporting four ounces of cocaine from New York City to Albany. The deal was set up by a drug dealer acting as a police informant and she was arrested. With no prior convictions, Bartlett was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and she served 16.

Now, I am not making excuses for committing crimes. Bartlett should not have been given a free pass merely because she was poor and had children -- this describes many law-abiding people.

But contrast the story of Julia Diaco. Diaco is an 18-year old freshman at NYU. She comes from an extraordinary wealthy family whose patriarch is a construction mogul. She was raised in a $2 million mansion and was treated to private rock concerts, lavish vacations and every amenity a child could want. Diaco was arrested earlier this week for running a drug dealing operation from her NYU dorm room. The police got wise to her operation, because of the many complaints coming from fellow residents, and set-up an undercover sting operation to catch her. Diaco fell right into the trap, selling undercover officers marijuana, cocaine, acid and hallucinogenic mushrooms on a number of different occasions. Diaco was finally arrested on Tuesday while delivering $1,000 worth of marijuana to an undercover officer. In addition, this is not Diaco's first drug arrest -- she was collared in her home state of New Jersey for possession last year.

Looking at these two cases, it is clear who the greater offender is. Young woman, no priors, one incident done out of desperation. Young woman, one prior, multiple incidents, done for fun and to buy expensive items. But equally clear is the fact that Diaco will escape with a much lesser sentence than Ms. Bartlett. She is the product of wealth -- her family has hired a high-priced Manhattan attorney to defend her. The chances of her being sentenced to 20 years are so slim that she was laughing and joking with reporters after she posted bail. Diaco is a cocky young girl, and with good reason -- she is going to get off with a slap on the wrist.

In many ways, Bartlett's conviction ruined her family by depriving her children of a mother and a potential role model. Was her action wrong? Absolutely. But one need look no further than the case of spoiled Julia Diaco to see that the system that convicted her is much, much worse.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004
More just desserts: Ordinarily, I have sympathy for the victims of suicide terrorists, and not much for them, or their leaders. In this case, however, it seems that everyone involved received what was coming:
Robbers killed by suicide bomber

A Hamas suicide bomber blew up two armed Palestinians who tried to rob him in the Gaza Strip, it emerged yesterday.

Rather than give up his bomb, the Hamas member detonated it, killing himself and the two robbers near the border fence between Gaza and Israel.

Er... why wouldn't he give up his bomb? Wouldn't it have been better to let them steal it, so that he could kill Israelis, not Palestinians? Maybe the robbers would have blown themselves up as martyrs, too.

A Hamas spokesman masterfully spins the decision, labeling the hapless criminals as legitimate targets: "Anyone who tries to stop a fighter from doing his work is a collaborator," he said.

In any case, the errant detonation is good news for Mahmoud Zahar, identified this week as the new Hamas leader. The Israelis have said that he can escape the fate of his predecessors, but only "if the militant group halts suicide attacks."

It's About Time the Liberals Got Their Due: has thankfully identified a growing problem in the American legal system and the creation of the organization that will counter it: the American Constitution Society (ACS).

    An ideological turf war has broken out in many of the nation's law schools, as liberals try to raise an army of law students and lawyers to fight what they call a conservative dominance of American law.

    For more than 20 years, the powerful 30,000-member Federalists have dominated the law school circuit -- where the recruiting for fresh blood begins -- as they have built an empire of 145 student chapters, providing connections, boosters and, oftentimes, clerkships in high places. But now the liberals want a piece of the action, and they're fighting back, one campus at a time.

Thank goodness someone is finally standing up for the liberal ideology on law school campuses! If the ACS does not do it, who will? Law schools campuses, especially at the elite schools, represent some of the most conservative groups anywhere in the United States. Just this year, Harvard Law doubled the number of right-of-center professors on its campus by hiring John Manning. What the hell has happened to this place? Liberal thought used to be protected in these hallowed halls, but now the Federalist Society has become a Leviathan, swallowing students whole and blinding them from the fact that we elite law students know better than the majority of the people in this country.

The ACS is here to protect liberal thinking once and for all. Professor Peter Rubin:

    "Over the past 20 years there's been an organized conservative movement and it's been successful ... but those visions are really out of step with what most Americans think law ought to be."

Yes, just like on gay marriage. Those damn Federalists stepped up and tried to impose gay marriage on a country where over 60% of the people were in opposition. Not just civil unions, mind you, that's not enough. The term 'marriage.' It's good that the ACS was there to fight for the beliefs of the American people. More from Rubin:

    "American law is dominated by conservatives. And you don't have to go further than the Supreme Court reports to see that, or pick up any copy of the circuit court decisions ... in case after case after case a conservative view is clearly dominant."

Now that I think about it, he is right. Being as generous as possible, there are FIVE "conservatives" on the Supreme Court. There are only FOUR liberals. Look at the dominance. It is a wonder that our society has not devolved into fascism. Almost half of the circuit court judges are "conservative" as well --the inmates are running the asylum!

I praise the ACS for stepping up and working to counter the plague that is sweeping the American legal system. Right-minded "left" thinkers must have a refuge from the overwhelming conservative tilt of our law schools and the courts. Only by defeating these insurgents can the law truly be saved from tyranny, oppression and the American people.