Apr. 15th, 2003

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because it wasn't last night and there was something I really wanted to post...

It has come to my attention that some folks out there are under the misapprehension that I made some contribution to the recent post by Mac Diva about women in the military which I posted here.

While I am, in my own right, a mac diva, I'm not that one, and my total contribution to that particular post consisted of the following steps:

1) Mac Diva: hey, I've got this essay

2) Me: Cool. Actual original content.

3) Me: [copy]

4) Me: [paste]

4a) Me: [type "Mac Diva wrote this"]

5) Me: [hit enter]

Now, if you want to argue that there's something ineffable about the silken way I carried out this series of tasks, I will not say you nay. I am known for the lightning-stroke speed and pinpoint accuracy and randomness of my typing.

Unfortunately, that's mostly a visual thrill, and after the fact doesn't contribute terribly much to the reading experience.

In closing:

Mac Diva (currently to be found at her web-homes, Mac-a-ro-nies and Silver Rights): wrote the entire piece

Me: typed this: (from the outrageously prolific MacDiva, who can also be found at her new digs, Mac-a-ro-nies and Silver Rights)

Me: posted it

I'm not sure how the idea got out there that I wrote some of this. I'm flattered, but it didn't happen.

(her latest piece, about the POWs, is here)
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The White House has privately ruled out suggestions that the US should go to war against Syria following its military success in Iraq, and has blocked preliminary planning for such a campaign in the Pentagon, the Guardian learned yesterday.

In the past few weeks, the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, ordered contingency plans for a war on Syria to be reviewed following the fall of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, his undersecretary for policy, Doug Feith, and William Luti, the head of the Pentagon's office of special plans, were asked to put together a briefing paper on the case for war against Syria, outlining its role in supplying weapons to Saddam Hussein, its links with Middle East terrorist groups and its allegedly advanced chemical weapons programme. Mr Feith and Mr Luti were both instrumental in persuading the White House to go to war in Iraq.

Mr Feith and other conservatives now playing important roles in the Bush administration, advised the Israeli government in 1996 that it could "shape its strategic environment... by weakening, containing and even rolling back Syria".

However, President George Bush, who faces re-election next year with two perilous nation-building projects, in Afghanistan and Iraq, on his hands, is said to have cut off discussion among his advisers about the possibility of taking the "war on terror" to Syria.

"The talk about Syria didn't go anywhere. Basically, the White House shut down the discussion," an intelligence source in Washington told the Guardian.

Faced with rising apprehension over the prospect of a new conflict, Tony Blair also offered categorical assurances to anxious MPs yesterday that Britain and the US had "no plans whatsoever" to invade Iraq's neighbour.

Dismissing fears of an Anglo-American invasion as another "conspiracy theory", the prime minister said that Mr Bush had never mentioned an attack on Syria during their regular talks

Gee, I hope Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Perle don't feel too bad.

So between now and the election, Bush and Co. have to actually build something over there while they balance the budget here.

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If you think government is useless, evil and unnecessary, ponder those pictures of looters in Iraq ransacking homes, hotels, even hospitals. Feel for that sobbing official of the National Museum of Antiquities, aghast at the destruction of irreplaceable historical artifacts by an angry mob.

The lesson the looters teach is basic, and it is usually ignored: The alternative to tyranny is not the abolition of government. Absent a government committed to the protection of rights, there are no rights. Without government, individuals have no way to vindicate their rights to property, to basic personal liberty, to life itself.

This lesson is timely. On and about April 15, anti-government and anti-tax groups annually devote much energy to trying to convince Americans that we live under a rapacious, money-grabbing, rights-destroying regime. The anti-taxers always throw numbers about how many days and months you'll be "working for the government." It's their way of describing how much of your income is taken in taxes.

These groups want to make you mad. And especially if you've ever discovered that you owe government more than you thought, you can see how they might succeed.

What these groups never talk about, because it would wreck their story line, is the extent to which our personal and collective prosperity as a property-owning, enterprising people depends on strong and effective government. No government, no property. No government, no security from looting, theft or violence. No government, no national defense. No government, no social stability. No government, no securities law. No government, no food inspections, no consumer and environmental protection, no safeguards for workplace rights, no social insurance.

At this time of year, I am tempted to pick out the two dozen loudest anti-tax propagandists and send them a copy of one of the most important volumes of the last decade. In "The Cost of Rights: Why Liberty Depends on Taxes," published in 1999, law professors Stephen Holmes and Cass Sunstein do a brilliant demolition job on the idea that taxes are inimical to freedom.

"Americans seem easily to forget that individual rights and freedoms depend fundamentally on vigorous state action," Holmes and Sunstein write. "Without effective government, American citizens would not be able to enjoy their private property in the way they do. Indeed, they would enjoy few or none of their constitutionally guaranteed individual rights. Personal liberty, as Americans value and experience it, presupposes social cooperation managed by government officials. The private realm we rightly prize is sustained, indeed created, by public action."

Let's take a particularly neuralgic issue: the question of whether the rich are asked to give too much to government through income and inheritance taxes. Because the well-off account for such a high share of total income tax receipts -- and more still of inheritance levies -- the anti-tax crowd argues that our beleaguered, best-off citizens should be the most generously provided for in any tax cut plan. Somehow, you rarely hear about how payroll, sales and property taxes hit the middle class and the poor much harder.

But there is an even more basic point: Our legal and social orders disproportionately benefit the well-off...
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Muslim employees of the Defense Department are protesting plans for the Rev. Franklin Graham, who has called Islam an evil religion, to lead Good Friday prayers at the Pentagon.

In letters to the Pentagon chaplain's office, Muslim office workers said they were dismayed by the choice of Graham and urged officials to find "a more inclusive and honorable Christian clergyman" to lead the April 18 service.


"The chaplain's office here, just like at any Army installation, regularly assists groups of various faiths to hold their services," Rudd said. "If a Jewish group wants to invite a particular speaker, they'll do that. Muslims hold services here, too. The Army chaplains are absolutely nonjudgmental of any faith that soldiers want to follow."

Graham, who heads the evangelistic association founded by his father, the Rev. Billy Graham, delivered the benedictions at the Republican National Conventions in 1996 and 2000, as well as the invocation at President Bush's 2001 inauguration.

He has long championed efforts to convert Muslims to Christianity. During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, he irked Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf by sending 30,000 Arabic-language bibles for U.S. troops to distribute in Muslim countries. Shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Graham denounced Islam on national television as "a very evil and wicked religion."

Muslim groups recently have objected to plans by his relief organization to send aid workers into Iraq, calling the humanitarian efforts a cover for proselytizing. But Graham appears to have broad support among evangelical Christians. According to a poll released last week by the Ethics & Public Policy Center and Beliefnet, a religion Web site, 70 percent of evangelical leaders consider Islam "a religion of violence" and 81 percent believe it is "very important" to convert Muslims abroad.

There was a joke going around New York back when the fatwa against Salman Rushdie was in full force that he was using his time in hiding to work on his new book, Buddha, You Fat [anglo-saxon vulgarism].

Do you suppose Franklin Graham would get it?

Do you suppose he'd think it was funny?
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President Bush will return to Republican fundraising as soon as next month after a five-month wartime hiatus, political sources said yesterday.

The Republican House and Senate campaign committees have mailed an invitation dated last Friday that solicits $2,500 a plate for "The President's Dinner," an annual joint gala by the two committees.

A two-page letter signed by Bush's father, former president George H.W. Bush, urges prospective donors to pay tribute to the president and first lady Laura Bush and to "help us make this event a memorable one for our President."

Key Republicans expect Bush to attend, although the White House said he has not accepted yet. It might seem incongruous to hold a "President's Dinner" with no president, but White House and party officials are wrestling with what is appropriate when a huge number of troops remain in harm's way.

Our commander-in-chief has sufficiently mastered his ambiguities to commit to writing a nice note for people who order the collector's plate and taking pictures with the really big donors.

Assuming he shows up.
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That rather odd young woman who writes about blogs for the Washington Post (you remember, the one who thought that Greatest Jenn person was, like, all cool and stuff?) apparently didn't set off quite as much of a pile-on as she was hoping for when she wrote about the Agonist thing, so she did it again. This time, apparently she e-mailed with Meryl Yourish some, leading to this astonishing graf:

Yourish's comments come partly in response to blogger/professor Glenn Reynolds, who noted on his site, InstaPundit.com, that he hasn't linked to the Agonist that much: "But the real reason I haven't linked to him a lot is simpler: most of his posts didn't have links to sources. I didn't suspect plagiarism, really, but I'm generally skeptical of secondhand reports without clear sourcing."

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I still don't know when she finds the time...

Virginia Tech students repel attack on affirmative action

In a rather shocking reversal, Virginia Tech has decided to reinstate its affirmative action policy. The decision to end affirmative action had been made behind closed doors March 10. It was instigated by Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, who has gubernatorial aspirations and has courted the conservative vote, including those of neo-Confederates.

The board voted 7 to 5 with one abstention to rescind a March 10 ban on preferences for racial minorities and other underrepresented groups in hiring, admissions and scholarships. The vote came after a four-hour meeting punctuated by outbursts from a crowd of about 250 people, most supporters of affirmative action.

The board called today's special meeting after weeks of protest over its resolution in closed session to dismantle affirmative action.

In addition to banning affirmative action, the college rejected protections for gay students, faculty and staff in its earlier decision.

According to the school newspaper, the Collegiate Times, Kilgore made some very dubious representations.

Last month, the board voted to eliminate all racial and gender preferences at the legal advice of Attorney General Jerry Kilgore. A memo from Kilgore’s office to the board said that individual board members would be legally liable if the university was sued for excluding students because of affirmative action.

The board removed sexual orientation from the non-discrimination policy because sexual orientation is not considered a protected class in federal and state laws.

Neither claim is realistic. The university is in no danger of being held liable for discrimination against anyone unless its policies violate the Bakke decision and its progeny. No evidence that they do exists. No one is suing the school for racial or gender discrimination. The Supreme Court of the United States will likely render its decisions in the University of Michigan affirmative action cases in July. The reasonable thing to do would be to await those decisions before rejecting or retailoring affirmative action policies.

However, by acting when he did, Kilgore would have likely prevented some minority students who would enter Virginia Tech this fall from doing so. There would have been time to rescind any acceptance letters mailed before March 10, citing the change in affirmative action guidelines. That is the sort of thing that brings a smile to an unreconstructed Southerner's face. The college has a student body that is six percent black in a state with a population that is 20 percent African-American.

Though the constitution does not require that entities not discriminate on the basis of sexual preference, many choose to enact such guidelines voluntarily. There is no reason why Virginia Tech can't do the same. If someone wanted to litigate the issue down the road that would be the time to respond.

The college's leader seems aware of the difference between political maneuvering and enforcing the law.

[Tech President Charles] Steger, in an address to the board as they considered rescinding the earlier actions, had harsh words for board members, saying removing affirmative action and sexual orientation from the non-discrimination policy has a severely negative effect on campus diversity and the reputation of the school.

“These actions cast a shadow over Virginia Tech in the eyes of other universities across the country,” he said.

Steger also hinted that the motivation of removing affirmative action and sexual orientation from the non-discrimination policy was based more on political agendas, rather than legal fact.

Virginia's governor, Mark Warner, opposed the bans and is pleased with the reversals.

Warner, whose administration played a key role in the proposals put forth Sunday, praised the board's decision in a statement.

"I thank those board members who supported our efforts to ensure campus diversity while we await more definitive legal guidance from the U.S. Supreme Court this summer," Warner said.

However, the opponents of diversity are some of the most powerful people in the state. Students' activism has, surprisingly, saved the day. Time will tell if their victory is maintained.
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