Archives for March, 2002


CASUALTY OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS: Speedy Gonzales, according to Fox News.

Posted on Mar 27, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off


WHITE POWDER MYSTERY: Post coverage of the Barry near-bust the other day says that the Park Police tested Hizzoner’s car for drug residue, but decided not to test the “powdery substance” they saw under his nose. There’s sharp police work. No wonder they botched the Vince Foster case…

Posted on Mar 27, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

NAILING BELLESILES: My favorite pro-Second-Amendment

NAILING BELLESILES: My favorite pro-Second-Amendment leftist (there’s a big category), Alexander Cockburn, smites Emory historian Michael Bellesiles in Counterpunch today. Bellesiles, whose book Arming America argues that gun ownership was rare in 18th century America, has been exposed as serial fabricator–a sort of Stephen Glass of the scholarly world.

What’s really surprising, though, is that so many people bought Bellesiles’s argument in the first place–that he had to be exposed as a fraud before people recognized how flimsy his case was. His argument, you recall, was that 18th-century probate records didn’t record a lot of firearms being transferred from the dead to the living. But why would one expect probate records to list firearms as a matter of course? Firearms are personal property that, then and now, is usually passed by transfers among the living. Would an examination of current probate records provide an accurate picture of how many Americans own firearms today?

Second, it’s clear from contemporary accounts that gun ownership was quite widespread in the 18th century. Reading the Federalist the other day (and no, I wasn’t doing it just for fun) I came across some illustrative passages. In No. 46, Madison, discussing the security of the people against an oppressive federal government, refers to “a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands,” and “the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation.” I guess Jemmy hadn’t seen the probate records.

Posted on Mar 26, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off


GOD LOVES GENTRIFICATION: I don’t know how John Tierney, who writes “The Big City” column for the New York Times, managed to slip past the Times’s ideological censors. In a corporate culture of self-flagellating liberalism, Tierney’s an unabashed libertarian–the intellectual heir to Jane Jacobs, who brought an appreciation of markets, decentralization, and spontaneous order to the study of urban planning.

Today, Tierney’s got a great what-you-think-you-know-ain’t-true column about the much-maligned phenomenon of gentrification. The latest academic research, it turns out, shows that gentrification doesn’t displace most long-time residents of the gentrifying neighborhood. As Tierney writes:

“Gentrification does not cause an exodus of the poor and the working class, according to a study in New York and another in Boston. Just the opposite happens: people with relatively little income and education become more likely to stick around. The rate of turnover declines, apparently because people don’t like to leave a neighborhood when it’s improving.”

The studies show that, for the most part, long-time residents decide to pay the higher rents and stick around. The people that are displaced are mostly transient short-timers, who are replaced with a better class of neighbor. (Though the hipness quotient of the gentrifying area may suffer, as the yups bring in their black Labs and baby-backpacks). The grizzled old Lefties who run the Advisory Neighborhood Commission in my gentrifying ‘hood would probably chain themselves to the bulldozers if anyone tried to break ground for a new Starbucks, but this research suggests they’ve got nothing to squawk about.

Posted on Mar 26, 2002 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments


THE HUBRIS OF THE NATION BUILDERS: The New York Times has a little aside today about those who preceded Hamid Karzai as leader of Afghanistan:

“Mr. Karzai, the chairman of the caretaker government installed after the Taliban’s collapse, blithely tosses out the gruesome anecdotes of presidential succession: Najibullah, disemboweled and hanged from a street pole. Muhammad Daoud, shot by his own guards as he sat on a palace couch. Noor Muhammad Taraki, smothered with a pillow.”

Lovely. And pace Joe Biden, we’re going to Marshall-Plan this place into a stable, pro-Western democacy? Please. Soccer games over there routinely end in shootouts, and the national sport, bushkazi, uses a bloody goat carcass as a puck. Good luck.

Posted on Mar 26, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off


“GODDAMN BITCH SET ME UP!”: The Washington Post reports that the U.S. Park Police found trace amounts of marijuana an cocaine in a car belonging to Hizzoner, once-and-future Mayor Marion Barry. The Park Police didn’t take Barry in, apparently, because the amounts in question were too small. Many black D.C. residents will undoubtedly see this near-bust as more evidence of “the Plan”–white America’s clandestine scheme to topple threatening black leaders. But if the Park Police are part of the Plan, they messed up; the article reports that the officers inexplicably declined to test the “powdery substance under [Barry's] nose.”

Funny thing is, Black Washington’s theories about the Plan were not entirely off-base, at least with regard to Barry’s 1990 bust for crack cocaine. The sting operation that landed Hizzoner six months in federal prison was the brainchild of right-wing U.S. Attorney Jay B. Stephens, who enlisted a former paramour of Barry’s to tempt the mayor into smoking crack. The whole thing was very sleazy. So Barry’s a weak-willed sinner–ought the federal government really be in the business of preying on public officials’ weaknesses? And as I recall the videotape, MB was less interested in the drugs than he was in getting the lady in the sack. (I was going to rhyme “sack” with “crack”, but I thought that would be a little much). After her repeated entreaties of “you first,” Barry finally said, in effect, “alright already, gimme the pipe.” If she’d demanded that he stand on his head, or shave his chest hair as a precondition to sex, he’d have done the same thing. Set him up is right.

Most of White Washington was livid about the alleged “Sexual McCarthyism” associated with Ken Starr and impeachment. But Starr didn’t hire Monica Lewinsky to snap her thong at Billy Jeff. She fell into Starr’s lap (cough) in the course of an ongoing investigation. Here, by contrast, you had a U.S. Attorney dragooning one of the mayor’s former mistresses into a federal sting operation designed to bring him down. Yet I don’t remember Washington’s bien-pensants so much as raising an eyebrow about the impropriety of federal action in the Barry case. (Coming soon to this space: “Mel Reynolds: Political Prisoner”)

Posted on Mar 25, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Wired reports today that the

Wired reports today that the Cuban government has banned the sale of computers for personal use. I was surprised to learn they weren’t illegal already. But it’s always nice to be reminded of the fundamental nature of Castro’s regime. Will the left-wing, intellectual Castratti here in the States take notice? Don’t count on it.

Posted on Mar 25, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Solicitude

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Solicitude for civil liberties from Maryland’s state legislators, who, the Washington Post reports, are dramatically expanding state powers through a series of anti-terrorism bills: “I realize that this bill basically says you can tap someone’s phone for jaywalking, and normally I would say, ‘No way,’ ” said Del. Dana Lee Dembrow (D-Montgomery). “But after what happened on September 11th, I say screw ‘em.”

Posted on Mar 25, 2002 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

THE OSCARS: I haven’t seen

THE OSCARS: I haven’t seen A Beautiful Mind, but I’m rooting against it for two reasons. First, I think it requires far too much in terms of suspension of disbelief. Russell Crowe as a mathematical genius? There’s a casting job every bit as believable as the Bond flick where buxom Denise Richards played “Christmas Jones,” nuclear physicist. Not to mention gorgeous, black-Irish Jennifer Connelly as Nash’s wife, an MIT grad student. Do they really expect us to believe that MIT has ever had a student that looked even remotely like Jennifer Connelly? Isn’t anyone in Hollywood aware that brilliant people are almost invariably ugly?

The second reason I hope Beautiful Mind tanks is that Russell Crowe’s a punk. You would think that a guy who’s the toast of Hollywood and the object of feminine desire worldwide could manage a grin once in a great while. But, no–he comes off like a surly, sour, self-important schmuck. He’s a graceless twit that makes Sean Penn look like a class act.

Posted on Mar 24, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

So the Bush Administration, several

So the Bush Administration, several months after issuing the order setting up military tribunals for noncitizens accused of terrorism, has finally gotten around to making up the rules. And they’re not as bad as might have been expected: right to counsel, unanimity for a death sentence, some right to appeal (though not to a civilian court…). You can read about them here. Predictably, the Wall Street Journal crows, “what was all the fuss about anyway?”. Well, under the order, the president can at his sole discretion lock up noncitizens (who are nonetheless constitutional “persons” entitled to due process under the Fifth Amendment) and convict them via a quasi-judicial procedure the rules for which the executive branch is making up on the fly. The fact that the rules the president has made up for that process contain certain protections for the accused is nice, but he can change those rules at any time.

I like this president. He doesn’t seem power-hungry. Far from seeking power, Tracy-Flick style, from puberty onward, Dubya didn’t get his act together and develop any ambition until he was 40. But he’s not the only president that’s going to have the opportunity to use this power. The war on terrorism is, like the war on drugs, a long-term project. And, as a wise man (Jon Utley) points out, we should always envision a new government power being used by our worst enemies. Under the order, the president can lock up any noncitizen he wants, design any kind of trial he wants, and never have to answer to a civilian court about it. That’s what all the fuss was about.

Posted on Mar 22, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Who am I? I’m a

Who am I? I’m a recovering lawyer in my early thirties. The precise moment when I became absolutely certain that I didn’t want to be a big-firm lawyer for the rest of my life arrived when I read the following passage from an article in December 2000’s Washington Lawyer magazine:

“As a junior partner in a growing law firm several years ago, Beverly Jones devised a legal strategy for rethinking her priorities and for retaining exercise as a regular habit. ‘There always seemed to be a deadline or problem or issue that got in the way,’ she recalls, ‘until I decided to treat exercise like a client and to make a contract with myself stipulating the steps I was required to execute and the penalties for noncompliance.’

Beverly sounds like a real bundle of joy, huh? Well, I like to exercise, and I like to read, and I like to have time for the occasional frivolous pursuit like blogging. So I left the law, and haven’t regretted it yet.

Posted on Mar 16, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Why blog? Well, I’ve got

Why blog? Well, I’ve got a lot to say about a lot of things, but I’m rarely disciplined enough to turn any of it into anything publishable. (When I do, I’ll link to it here). Blogging is the lazy man’s method for cultural commentary. Besides, I read several blogsites on a daily basis. Andrew Sullivan has a good explanation of the blogging phenom here.

Posted on Mar 16, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off