Friday, April 15, 2005

Brendan Miniter: Cracking the Tax Code

Cracking the Code
Will Congress finally get serious about tax reform?
BY BRENDAN MINITER Wednesday, April 13, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT
The Wall Street Journal

As millions of Americans scramble to get their tax returns in by April 15, it's becoming exceedingly clear that the million-word tax code isn't working. Putting the question aside of what the government actually needs, what bears asking is: Is this all really necessary?

To most taxpayers the need for a simpler, fairer (and some of us dare say cheaper) tax code seems obvious. But now the issue is getting some serious attention inside Washington. A presidential commission is studying tax reform, and its recommendations are due back by July 31. After Social Security, we are told that this is next on President Bush's reform agenda.


"Tax reform" is often code for a tax hike, and the best reform would be a simple one, a low flat rate, which isn't likely. But there's reason to hope that we'll end up with something better than what we have now. First, the commission isn't likely to come back with a pie-in-the-sky plan.
The nine-member commission includes two former senators, Republican Connie Mack and Democrat John Breaux, so we can expect that whatever they suggest will be battle tested for the political war ahead. They might even build in a few places for obvious compromise, so to improve the odds their proposal will make it through Congress.

The commission has also already taken a serious look at the code and what has and hasn't worked on the state level as well as internationally. Economist Milton Friedman--who much to his regret helped set up the federal withholding system that pulls money directly out of our paychecks--drove himself to a hearing the commission held in San Francisco recently. One interesting point he made is that big changes are possible even if the bureaucracy is against them. He noted that the IRS originally opposed the federal withholding system, arguing that it would never be able to enforce it.

The bureaucracy, it seems, resists change of any sort, so don't expect the IRS to join the fight for a better tax code. A presidential commission is nice, but this is a political fight that is going to take political muscle to win. That is to say, pressure from voters. To mobilize the voters, however, the president needs a carrot he may have already given up. The tax commission's instructions are to suggest "revenue neutral" ideas--so don't look for another round of tax cuts in the details of whatever the commission comes back with. That leaves the reformers with the promise of a simpler code to mobilize widespread support for tinkering with Congress's social experiment that passes for a tax code.


That's not a fight that's stacked in the president's favor, except for one other piece of this puzzle. The tax cuts Congress enacted during the president's first term are set to expire in 2010, and the commission is starting with the assumption that those cuts are made permanent. It's almost as if President Bush has been fitting the puzzle pieces together from the beginning of his presidency knowing that one day, this is where he would be. Congress now has to act or in just a few years a massive tax increase--including steep death tax rates and an income tax rate approaching 40%--will fall on the nation.

That brings us back to the question many Americans are asking as they try to make sense of the part of the tax code that applies to them: Is this all really necessary? Thankfully Congress may finally get around to asking that question itself.

Mr. Miniter is assistant editor of His column appears Tuesdays.

Jonah Goldberg: The Darker Side of Quotas

Jonah Goldberg (archive)
April 15, 2005

A recent column in the Metro section of The Washington Post barely caught anybody's attention. Marc Fisher, a writer I have no reason to suspect as a member of the Insensitive Conservatives Union (he's never at the meetings) or as an adviser to Larry Summers, wrote an interesting story about the trials and tribulations of Asian-American students at a local school.

These kids have pushy parents. They deal with the stereotype that they're smarter or bigger study-geeks than everybody else. They take SAT prep courses in 7th grade and attend Chinese language classes on Saturdays. Et cetera.

And then Fisher offers these intriguing 37 words: "Add the punishing quotas that Asian students face in the college admissions game - colleges don't admit to using quotas, but the numbers tell the story - and the result is pressure through every step of childhood."

Huh. Interesting. This confirms data from California and Texas that when racial preferences are lifted, whites don't gain much, but Asian admissions jump through the roof. At the University of Texas-Austin, when preferences were removed, Asian freshmen jumped to 18 percent in a state where Asians comprise only 3 percent of the population.

In other words, what is denied with Orwellian savoir-faire by defenders of the Diversity-Academia complex is just plain obvious to people who are not professionally or ideologically invested in denying the existence of the elephant in the corner: The diversity "racket" discriminates against some minorities for the benefit of other minorities.

At this point, most anti-quota tirades tend to follow fairly predictable lines about the merits of meritocracy, the "soft bigotry" of low expectations, etc. These are all important and worthy arguments. But I think the Asian-American example highlights a point that often gets lost: Diversity regimes would be unfair even if minority applicants were completely qualified.

Today, the debate over diversity is driven largely by the unavoidable fact that, on average, African-Americans and Hispanics are less academically qualified than whites and various other demographic groups. This was highlighted a few years ago during arguments over the University of Michigan Law School's quota system. Justice Antonin Scalia noted during oral arguments before the Supreme Court that the easiest way to increase diversity would be to lower the law school's standards. If diversity is "important enough to override the Constitution's prohibition of racial distribution, it seems to me it's important enough to override Michigan's desire to have a super-duper law school."

This is where the Orwellian savoir-faire tends to kick in. The school's lawyers, along with columnists such as The Washington Post's David Broder and countless others, insisted that increasing diversity never comes at the expense of quality.

Well, if the trade-off didn't exist, we wouldn't be having this debate. If there were a surplus of high SAT-scoring, straight-A blacks and Hispanics, no one would sue because they lost their slot to a less-qualified minority. The entire affirmative action controversy is predicated on the unavoidable fact that there is a greater demand for well-qualified blacks than there is a supply.


However, even if that weren't the case, this quest to make all of our major institutions "look like America" is still basically arbitrary and unfair. It's simply absurd to think that the distribution of Chinese, black, white, Hispanic, Indian, Jewish, Hmong and so forth in the society can or should be replicated at a given university. Indian-Americans, for example, are hugely over-represented in the ranks of hotel and motel owners in the United States. Harvard President Larry Summers got in a lot of hot water for thinking out loud about why women were underrepresented at the highest reaches of science. But his observations that Catholics are underrepresented in investment banking, and that Jews are underrepresented in farming, went largely unnoticed.

So what? None of these things suggests that these fields are hothouses of bigotry. Instead, it demonstrates that there are all sorts of reasons, some good, some bad, for the distributions of ethnicities in this country.

Fisher's story about Asian students in the Washington suburbs illustrates the point. These kids - mostly Chinese and Vietnamese - are under intense pressure from their parents and peers to excel. This comes with all sorts of drawbacks. Some of the pressure isn't positive; kids who don't follow the Asian stereotype are called "twinkees" - yellow on the outside, white on the inside. But the benefits are tangible, or at least they're supposed to be.

If, as a group, the kids of Asian immigrants work harder and do better academically than blacks or whites or Jews, is it fair for Harvard to say at some point, "Sorry, we're full up on Asians," simply because it had reached a quota based on the Asian share of the U.S. population? Some cultures are going to emphasize the importance of becoming a doctor more than others. There's no principled reason why advocates of quota games for law schools shouldn't support the same thing for basketball.

But all of this talk about groups obscures the most basic point. Racial and ethnic groups are supposed to be invisible to the government. Any other system is merely guilt - or credit - by association.

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online, a member group.
©2005 Tribune Media Services
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Thomas Sowell: College Admissions Voodoo

Thomas Sowell (archive)
April 15, 2005

Every year about this time, high school students get letters of admission -- or rejection -- from colleges around the country. The saddest part of this process is not their rejections but the assumption by some students that they were rejected because they just didn't measure up to the high standards of Ivy U. or their flagship state university.

The cold fact is that objective admissions standards are seldom decisive at most colleges. The admissions process is so shot through with fads and unsubstantiated assumptions that it is more like voodoo than anything else.

A student who did not get admitted to Ivy U. may be a better student than some -- or even most -- of those who did. Admissions officials love to believe that they can spot all sorts of intangibles that outweigh test scores and grade-point averages.

Such notions are hardly surprising in people who pay no price for being wrong. All sorts of self-indulgences are possible when people are unaccountable, whether they be college admissions officials, parole boards, planning commissions or copy-editors.

What is amazing is that nobody puts the notions and fetishes of college admissions offices to a test. Nothing would be easier than to admit half of a college's entering class on the basis of objective standards, such as test scores, and the other half according to the voodoo of the admissions office. Then, four years later, you could compare how the two halves of the class did.
But apparently this would not be politic.

Among the many reasons given for rejecting objective admissions standards is that they are "unfair." Much is made of the fact that high test scores are correlated with high family income.
Very little is made of the statistical principle that correlation is not causation. Practically nothing is made of the fact that, however a student got to where he is academically, that is in fact where he is -- and that is usually a better predictor of where he is going to go than is the psychobabble of admissions committees.

The denigration of objective standards allows admissions committees to play little tin gods, who think that their job is to reward students who are deserving, sociologically speaking, rather than to select students who can produce the most bang for the buck from the money contributed by donors and taxpayers for the purpose of turning out the best quality graduates possible.

Typical of the mindset that rejects the selection of students in the order of objective performances was a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education which said that colleges should "select randomly" from a pool of applicants who are "good enough." Nowhere in the real world, where people must face the consequences of their decisions, would such a principle be taken seriously.

Lots of pitchers are "good enough" to be in the major leagues but would you just as soon send one of those pitchers to the mound to pitch the deciding game of the World Series as you would send Randy Johnson or Roger Clemens out there with the world championship on the line?

Lots of military officers were considered to be "good enough" to be generals in World War II but troops who served under General Douglas MacArthur or General George Patton had more victories and fewer casualties. How many more lives would you be prepared to sacrifice as the price of selecting randomly among generals considered to be "good enough"?

If you or your child had to have a major operation for a life-threatening condition, would you be just as content to have the surgery done by anyone who was "good enough" to be a surgeon, as compared to someone who was a top surgeon in the relevant specialty?

The difference between first-rate and second-rate people is enormous in many fields. In a college classroom, marginally qualified students can affect the whole atmosphere and hold back the whole class.

In some professions, a large part of the time of first-rate people is spent countering the half-baked ideas of second-rate people and trying to salvage something from the wreckage of the disasters they create. "Good enough" is seldom good enough.

©2005 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Contact Thomas Sowell Read Sowell's biography

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Michael Fumento: The African Heterosexual AIDS Myth

Michael Fumento (archive)
April 14, 2005

Ninety-nine percent of AIDS and HIV cases in Africa come from sexual transmission, virtually all heterosexual. So says the World Health Organization, with other agencies toeing the line. Massive condom airdrops accompanied by a persuasive propaganda campaign would practically make the epidemic vanish overnight. Or would it?

A determined renegade group of three scientists has fought for years – with little success – to get out the message that no more than a third of HIV transmission in Africa is from sexual intercourse and most of that is anal. By ignoring the real vectors, they say, we’re sacrificing literally millions of people.

These men are no crackpots. John Potterat is author of 140 scholarly publications. He began working for the El Paso County, Colorado health department in 1972 and initiated the first U.S. partner-tracing program for AIDS/HIV.

Stuart Brody, soon to become a full professor in Psychology at University of Paisley in Scotland, has published over 100 scholarly publications, including a book called “Sex at Risk.” Economist and anthropologist David Gisselquist has almost 60 scholarly publications and is currently advising the government of India on staunching its potentially explosive AIDS epidemic.

These renegades note that one indicator the role of vaginal transmission is overplayed in Africa is that it hasn’t played much of one in the U.S. Here 12 percent of AIDS cases are “attributed to” heterosexual transmission, meaning victims claimed to have gotten it that way. Of these, over a third are males.

Yet San Francisco epidemiologist Nancy Padian evaluated 72 male partners of HIV-infected women over several years, during which time only one man became infected. Even in that case, there were “several instances of vaginal and penile bleeding during intercourse.” So even the small U.S. heterosexual figure appears grossly exaggerated.

The chief reason it’s so hard to spread HIV vaginally is that, as biopsies of vaginal and cervical tissue show, the virus is unable to penetrate or infect healthy vaginal or cervical tissue. Various sexually transmitted diseases facilitate vaginal HIV infection, but even those appear to increase the risk only slightly.

So if vaginal intercourse can’t explain the awful African epidemic, what can? Surely it’s not homosexuality, since we’ve been told there is none in Africa. In fact, the practice has long been widespread.

For example, German anthropologist Kurt Falk reported in the 1920s that bisexuality was almost universal among the male populations of African tribes he studied. Medical records also show that African men who insist they’re straighter than the proverbial arrow often suffer transmissible anorectal diseases.

Yet almost certainly greater – and more controllable – contributors to the African epidemic are “contaminated punctures from such sources as medical injections, dental injections, surgical procedures, drawing as well as injecting blood, and rehydration through IV tubes,” says Brody.
There are many indicators that punctures play a huge role in the spread of African HIV/AIDS. For example, during the 1990s HIV increased dramatically in Zimbabwe, even as condom use increased and sexually transmitted infections rapidly fell.

Or consider that in a review of nine African studies, HIV prevalence in inpatient children ranged from 8.2% to 63% – as many as three times the prevalence in women who’d given birth. If the kids didn’t get the virus from their mothers, whence its origin?

Good people differ on exactly how much of the HIV in Africa is spread vaginally – including our three renegades themselves. Nevertheless, their findings readily belie the official figures. AIDS studies in Africa, Potterat says, are “First World researchers doing second rate science in Third World countries.”

There’s no one reason for the mass deception. In part, once a paradigm has been established it becomes much easier to justify than challenge. “Only a handful [of researchers] are even looking at routes other than sex,” notes Potterat. He also observes that grant donors seem only interested in the sex angle. “Sex is sexy,” he says.

Brody also points out that for scientists to concede they were wrong would be “to admit they’re complicit in mass death. That’s hard to admit that to yourself, much less to other people.”

True enough. But for the sake of millions in Africa and other underdeveloped areas threatened by massive new infections, we’d better admit it now.

- Michael Fumento (fumento[at] is author of The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS, a senior fellow at Hudson Institute, and a nationally syndicated columnist with Scripps Howard News Service.

©2005 Michael Fumento

Ann Coulter: It's Only Funny Until Someone Loses a Pie

Ann Coulter (archive)
April 14, 2005

Liberals enjoy claiming that they are intellectuals, thrilled to engage in a battle of wits. This, they believe, distinguishes them from conservatives, who are religious fanatics who react with impotent rage to opposing ideas. As one liberal, Jonathan Chait, put the cliche in the New Republic: Bush is an "instinctive anti-intellectual" and his administration hostile to "fact-driven debate." In a favorable contrast, Clinton is "the former Rhodes scholar who relished academic debates." Showing his usual reverence for fact-checking, the New York Times' Paul Krugman says the Republican Party is "dominated by people who believe truth should be determined by revelation, not research."

I'm not sure how these descriptions square with the fact that liberals keep responding to conservative ideas by throwing food. (Remember the good old days when liberals' "fact-driven" ideas only meant throwing money at their problems?)

Last October, two liberals responded to my speech at the University of Arizona – during question and answer, no less – by charging the stage and throwing two pies at me from a few yards away. Fortunately for me, liberals not only argue like liberals, they also throw like girls. (Apologies in advance to the Harvard biology professors who walked out on Larry Summers in a demonstration of their admiration of "research," not "revelation" – but this may account for the dearth of female pitchers in Major League Baseball.)

Unfortunately for them, Republican men don't react favorably to two "Deliverance" boys trying to sucker-punch a 110-pound female in a skirt and heels. The geniuses ended up with bloody noses and broken bones.

It's really outrageous how conservatives respond to liberals who are just trying to engage in a "fact-driven debate." How typical of Republicans to go on the offensive just because a female has been physically attacked. Instead of capturing and subduing my attackers, those strong Republican men should have been trying to understand why they threw the pies.

In the five months following the liberal ass-whupping in Arizona – I mean "fact-driven debate" – all was quiet on the Eastern Front. College liberals still couldn't formulate a coherent argument, but they seemed to want to avoid ending up in jail having to explain to their cellmates that they were in for trying to hit a girl (and missing).

Then on March 19, all charges were dismissed against the "Deliverance" boys – including a felony charge for $3,000 worth of damage to school property. Inexplicably, this outcome did not instantly lead to widespread rioting and looting in South Central Los Angeles.

Democrat Barbara LaWall is the Pima County attorney who allowed the liberal debate champions to walk. LaWall brags on her website about "holding criminals accountable." She didn't say anything about liberals, however. Be forewarned, conservatives: Do not expect the law to protect you in Pima County.

In the three weeks following the dismissal of all charges against my attackers, three more conservatives were attacked on college campuses.

On March 29, liberals' intellectual retort to a speech by William Kristol at Earlham College was to throw a pie. On March 31, liberals enjoyed the hurly-burly of political debate with Pat Buchanan at Western Michigan University by throwing salad dressing. On April 6, liberals engaged David Horowitz on his ideas at Butler University by throwing a pie at him.

If you close your eyes, it's almost like you're listening to Ludwig Wittgenstein!

If there had been that many attacks on Muslims in the weeks following the 9-11 attack, we'd still be watching Showtime specials about it. (In liberals' defense, this is what they must resort to when there are no student newspapers with conservative editorials to burn.)

At the risk of provoking one of those brainy liberals to throw more food, here's an idea: In order to reduce physical assaults on conservative speakers, maybe we should increase the price. But, to the contrary, when conservative speakers are physically attacked on college campuses, university administrators ignore the attacks, Democrat prosecutors somehow manage to get the charges dismissed, and Democrat flacks like Chait and Krugman pretend they missed the news that day.

What might work better is some form of disincentive to liberals who engage in violent behavior whenever they hear an idea they don't like but can't come up with words to dispute. The punishment doesn't have to be severe – just a small fraction of the wailing and healing that occurs every time there's a hoax "hate crime" on a college campus. (But which still serve a valuable function by calling attention to the issue of hate crimes.)

Last year, classes were canceled and demonstrations held at Claremont College after a white, Catholic visiting professor claimed her car had been vandalized with racist and anti-Semitic slurs. This – at the very moment she was giving a talk on intolerance!

It was just a little too ironic. The incident had all the exquisite timing of an "ABC After-School Special" about hate crimes. But as one student angrily told the Los Angeles Times, the suggestion that it was a hoax is "so sick. They are in denial. People don't want to accept that a well-educated, liberal community can have hate." Needless to say, the vandalism turned out to have been perpetrated by the professor herself.

Or maybe physical attacks on conservatives could merit a small slice of the rage and indignation directed at the display of racist symbols. Last year, a white student at a high school in Washington State was accused of taunting a black student with a noose. In response, the white student was immediately expelled from school. He was charged with a felony. There was a series of town-wide discussions. The U.S. Justice Department sent in mediators. And two more years were suddenly added to Whoopi Goldberg's career.

I think Kristol, Buchanan, Horowitz and I would be perfectly happy if college liberals merely brandished symbols at us. Speaking for myself, I would be unhappy if they didn't. But these Rhodes scholar geniuses with a taste for "fact-driven debate" can't even achieve the level of argument practiced by the average juvenile delinquent. They're still stuck at the intellectual level of 2-year-olds in high chairs throwing food.

Ann Coulter is host of, a member group.

©2005 Universal Press Syndicate

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Captain's Quarter's on Kofi Annan's NY Times Op-Ed

April 13, 2005

Annan Preaching Accountability?

Kofi Annan takes to the opinion pages of the New York Times today to preach accountability to Americans, a stunning and laughable assertion from the man who has led the United Nations to its nadir of credibility at least partially based on his own lack of accountability:

In Oslo this week, donor countries pledged $4.5 billion in aid to Sudan, but while I applaud the donors' generosity, promises alone are not enough.

Time is running out for the people of Sudan. We need pledges immediately converted into cash and more protection forces in Darfur to prevent yet more death and suffering. If we fail in Sudan, the consequences of our actions will haunt us for years to come.

After more than two million dead, four million uprooted, and 21 years of warfare, southern Sudan is at last on the threshold of peace. It is, of course, a volatile, fragile peace. Violence, disease and displacement are still daily realities in this desperately impoverished region, where one in four children die before the age of 5, nearly half of all children are malnourished, and only 5 out of 100 girls attend primary school.

Annan makes it sound as if the civil war came as a result of a famine, and that the deaths could not have been prevented. He has it backwards. The famine came as a result of the war, and the failure of Annan himself in designating the Darfur atrocities as a genocide -- which would have obligated him to act to stop it -- contributed to hundreds of thousands of those deaths. For Annan to use those figures as a scold against the Western nations that had all but demanded Annan to acknowledge the Darfur genocide is akin to Marshal Petain standing on the grounds of Bergen-Belsen in 1945 and demanding food aid to Jewish victims of a "famine".

Annan then talks about how the West should manage its money:

The billions pledged this week can help. But hungry people cannot eat pledges. Through long and bitter experience we've learned that donor pledges often remain unfulfilled. In Cambodia, Rwanda, Liberia and elsewhere, a large percentage of promised funds failed to materialize, and many lives were lost as a result.

For example, in 1992, donors pledged $880 million for Cambodian war rehabilitation; three years later, only $460 million had been delivered. Nearly a year after donors promised $1 billion to deal with the devastation caused by the 2003 earthquake in Bam, Iran, less than 20 percent of the money had been delivered.

Hey, I'll go Annan one better. Annan set up a famine-relief program for Iraqis called Oil-For-Food, into which went at least $64 billion dollars. Somewhere between $10B and $21B of that money disappeared into the pockets of the genocidal dictator it was meant to bypass, meaning that up to a third of the money never made it to the starving people it intended to feed and heal.

Millions more of the money went into the pockets of UN personnel, such as his own right-hand man, Benon Sevan, and his own son, Kojo Annan. Kofi never bothered to ensure that the program, the largest aid program he ran, was properly audited.

So where's Kofi's accountability for that?

But more than food aid is needed - we also need to hold the perpetrators of violence in Sudan accountable. The International Commission of Inquiry, which I appointed at the request of the United Nations Security Council, has amply documented the murder, mass rapes, abductions and other atrocities committed in Darfur, as have many others. We know what is happening in Darfur. The question is, why are we not doing more to put an end to it?

Coming from Kofi Annan, this amounts to an obscenity. Annan has stood by and watched as his staff has raped and pillaged in almost every peacekeeping venue they have served during his term and done absolutely nothing to stop it or punish those responsible. Just yesterday, the Washington Post ran an article from Peter Dennis, who spent time in UN camps, outlining the complete lack of response from Annan and Turtle Bay on its own atrocities:

I arrived in Sierra Leone as a legal aid worker in the summer of 2003, one year after the release of a damaging report on sexual abuse in U.N. refugee camps in West Africa. Although the report's description of widespread sexual abuse had prompted Secretary General Kofi Annan to issue a strongly worded "zero tolerance" policy, I found abuse of a sexual nature almost every day -- zero compliance with zero tolerance, as one investigator was to write. U.N. leaders had simply not expended any effort beyond lip service to carry out this zero tolerance policy.

In fact, abuse at these camps went beyond sexual violations: Injustices of one sort or another were perpetrated by U.N. missions or their affiliated nongovernmental organizations every day in the camps I visited. Corruption was the norm, in particular the embezzlement of food and funds by NGO officials, which often left camp resources dangerously inadequate. Utterly arbitrary judicial systems in the camps subjected refugees to violent physical punishment or months in prison for trivial offenses -- all at the whim of officials and in the absence of any sort of hearing. ...

After the 2002 report documented sexual abuse, Annan's steely resolve led to exactly zero criminal prosecutions of U.N. officials for sexual abuse. I expect little difference now that refugee camp conditions have returned to the headlines. As before, Annan has delivered vague statements but prosecuted no one. It appears that the status quo reigns and that those perpetrating all sorts of abuses in refugee camps may continue undisturbed. The United Nations is a vital institution that needs a housecleaning.

The last person to lecture the US, the West, and the world on accountability should be Kofi Annan. Had he any shred of honor, he long ago would have resigned his post in the face of the collapse of his credibility on this point alone. The editorial board of the New York Times should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this abomination on its pages, and its tacit endorsement of Annan as global scold should cement its reputation as a clueless, inept, and outrageously biased media outlet which has no further credibility to speak on international affairs. There may be more disgusting examples of hypocrisy and shameless propaganda in media -- the Times' Pulitzer for Walter Duranty's Stalin apologias come to mind -- but few reach this standard.

Posted by Captain Ed at 07:15 AM Comments (12) TrackBack (2)

April 12, 2005

The Inhumanity Of Bureaucrats

This story has already started flying around the blogosphere, probably because people will have a hard time believing it to be true. However, the Associated Press reports that officials at a Columbus high school tried to keep a father from calling the police after students sexually assaulted his sixteen-year-old developmentally disabled daughter:

A 16-year-old disabled girl was punched and forced to engage in videotaped sexual acts with several boys in a high school auditorium as dozens of students watched, according to witnesses. ...
School officials found the girl bleeding from the mouth. An assistant principal cautioned the girl's father against calling 911 to avoid media attention, the statements said. The girl's father called police.

Her father said the girl is developmentally disabled. A special education teacher said the teen has a severe speech impediment.

So let's just get this straight. An at-risk young girl gets physically assaulted and then forced to perform oral sex on at least two boys, while dozens of students watched and some even filmed the acts. Instead of locking the school down and getting the police out right away to arrest the perverts who committed this vile act, the first instinct of the school administration was concern for their own convenience? The father obviously has more sense and more humanity than the ghouls who run Mifflin High School.

Or rather, the ghouls who ran the school. The principal has been fired, but the assistant principals -- apparently including the one who first tried to convince the father to cover up his daughter's rape -- will get reassigned to supervise other students. That should give Columbus-area parents a warm and comfortable feeling about the kind of care their children will receive from these bloodless bureaucrats.

Posted by Captain Ed at 09:31 PM Comments (15) TrackBack (2)

The Washington Times: Editorial- Double Standards for Sandy Berger

13 April 2005

As we noted last week, Sandy Berger stole some of the nation's most highly classified terrorism documents from the National Archives. He scissored them to pieces in his downtown Washington offices. Then he lied about it. Mr. Berger's lenient plea bargain with the Justice Department fines him an amount he can shake from the couches at his Stonebridge International LLC offices and promises his security clearances will be restored in time for Election 2008.

It's hard to underestimate the effect a case like this has on national-security professionals. For cynics, it shows that big players get off easy when they commit the crimes smaller fry lose their careers over. Meanwhile, spies, policy-makers and other handlers of secrets are effectively being told their efforts aren't taken seriously. It's a classic Washington double standard.

"This is one of the most dissatisfying and demoralizing legal decisions possible from a national-security standpoint," former National Security Council staffer John Lenczowski told us. "It sends the signal that the U.S. government is not nearly as serious about the protection of classified information as our laws would indicate."

In conversations about the case, foreign-affairs veterans use words like "stomach-turning" and "demoralizing" to describe their reaction to the plea agreement. It is not hard to see why. Lives depend upon observing national-security rules. Untold man-hours and billions of dollars are spent acquiring and keeping secrets. All this is risked when the rules and laws are broken. In this case, Mr. Berger's stolen documents detailed the Clinton administration's failure to guard adequately against terrorist plots during the 2000 millennial celebrations. These weren't some low-level briefing papers. They were among the most-sensitive materials anywhere in government.

Far from acknowledging the ill effects of Mr. Berger's free pass, however, some of his defenders are actually excusing his behavior and sweeping its ill effects under the carpet. We wouldn't have thought the Wall Street Journal editorial page would number among them, but it does. The Journal praised the agreement for "restraint" and glossed over its morale-wrecking effects, pausing only to note that "lesser officials have received harsher penalties for more minor transgressions."

With this wink and nod, the Wall Street Journal is telling national-security professionals that double standards should govern the nation's secrets.

Meanwhile, Mr. Berger seems to be getting away with a novel defense: that he's ignorant. Mr. Berger "didn't exactly know how to return the documents once he'd taken them out," the Wall Street Journal explains credulously. This is laughable. Mr. Berger was the highest-ranking official at the National Security Council and has held national-security jobs since the Carter administration. If a former national security adviser "didn't exactly know" the rules, who does?

At this point, the only consolation is that Mr. Berger's future in national-security jobs is in doubt. The bureaucracy already doubts Democratic bona fides, so putting Mr. Berger up for a big job in, say, a Hillary Clinton administration would only worsen things. Of course, a tougher penalty would have, and should have, nullified that possibility.

Michelle Malkin: Pandering to the Crackpot Left

Michelle Malkin (archive)
April 13, 2005

It looks like Teresa Heinz Kerry is rubbing off on her husband. And on Sen. Hillary Clinton. For the Republican Party, this is a very good thing.

You'll recall that last month, Mrs. Heinz Kerry put on her shiniest tinfoil hat and blamed the Democrats' loss in November on rigged voting machines. As reported in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Mrs. Heinz Kerry openly questioned the election results and fixated on areas of the country where optical scanners were used to record votes. "Two brothers own 80 percent of the machines used in the United States," Mrs. Heinz Kerry intoned, and it is "very easy to hack into the mother machines."

Cue the "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" soundtrack. And keep the mashed potatoes away from Mrs. Heinz Kerry.

Asked for evidence of her "mother machine"-hacking theory, the ketchup heiress refused further comment. Glitches happen. And no technology is fool-proof. But unhinged Democrats have obsessed on the fact that the chief executive of Diebold, the leading vote machine manufacturer, is a Bush supporter in order to turn inevitable errors into a nefarious Vote-Swallowing Grand Master Plan.

The mother machine theorists also cite the discrepancies between exit polls and vote tallies to bolster their suspicions. But as liberal journalist David Corn pointed out, "screwy exit polls do raise questions, but they are not proof of sabotage. And left-of-center accusers have promoted contradictory theories." On the one hand, they accuse Diebold and other vendors of "put[ting] in the fix via the paperless touch-screen machines." On the other hand, they claim that conspirators in Florida rigged "optical-scan voting, not electronic touch-screen voting." Or is it both?

A Unified Mother and Father Machine Convergence Conspiracy?

Back on planet Earth, Corn notes that scholars at Cornell, Harvard and Stanford dismissed the Florida fraud allegations as "baseless." And the Voting Technology Project, a cooperative effort between the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found "no particular patterns" relating to voting systems and the final results.

Immediately after the election, John Kerry avoided the deepest fever swamps of the crackpot Left. But Teresa's kooky pillow-talk has apparently taken effect. On Sunday, Sen. Kerry dredged up allegations of Republican trickery and voter scare tactics in a speech before the League of Women Voters: ''Last year, too many people were denied their right to vote, too many who tried to vote were intimidated.''

Kerry activists made much hay about the long lines and shortage of voting machines in swing districts. But their lawsuit in Ohio based on those claims was dismissed. And as Mark Niquette of the Columbus Dispatch told ABC's "Nightline," "if you talk to the election officials here in Franklin County, they'll tell you, the main problem was there just weren't enough machines overall, that even Republican-leaning precincts had long lines."

Not a peep, by the way, from Kerry about the far loonier intimidation tactics of Democrats Gone Wild -- from the drive-by shootings targeting GOP headquarters across the country, to the union mobs who stormed the offices of Bush/Cheney volunteers, to the anti-Bush thugs who burned swastikas onto Republican homeowners' lawns, to the paid Democratic staffers charged with slashing the tires of 20 Republican get-out-the-vote vans on Election Day.

Singing from the same hysteria-promoting hymn book in Minnesota this week, Sen. Hillary Clinton further stoked Democratic madness. Sarcastically praising the elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, Sen. Clinton pounced: "I believe that the right to vote and the obligation to count all the votes should be promoted not just in the Middle East, but in the Middle West! And in the Northeast! And in the Southeast! And in every. Corner. Of. The. United. States. Of. A-MEH-rica!"

The crowd went wild. Sen. Clinton continued: Too many minorities and college students have been "denied an equal right" to vote, she exclaimed. (Her "moderate" solution? An election reform bill that allows illegal aliens! And felons! And people without IDs to vote!)

The Democrats now seem to believe that the road to the White House is paved with paranoia. Well, let them keep babbling about "mother machines" and stolen votes. The evil genius Karl Rove himself couldn't have come up with a better plan.

Michelle Malkin is a syndicated columnist and maintains her weblog at
©2005 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Contact Michelle Malkin Read Malkin's biography

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

George Neumayr: St. Peter's in Chains

Special Report
The American Spectator
By George Neumayr
Published 4/7/2005 12:09:23 AM

As secularization picked up speed in the 18th and 19th century and went into overdrive in the 20th, modern liberals militated to secularize and control everything, including the Catholic Church, which they regarded as the only cultural obstacle left to surmount. Enlightenment dilettante Denis Diderot spoke of strangling the last priest with "the guts of the last king."

The Church had smelled a rat before the French Revolution. Pope Pius VI warned that the misnamed "Enlightenment" would destroy Europe's God-centered culture, decimate its moral foundations, and turn government into a pitiless impostor god. For daring to see that the "Rights of Man" would mean eradicating real rights in the name of fake ones, and warning his clergy of the coming culture of death -- "Beware of lending your ears to the treacherous speech of the philosophy of this age which leads to death" -- Pope Pius VI was stripped of his liberty by Europe's new forces of "liberty, equality, and fraternity." He ended up dying in Valence under French arrest. The French later arrested Pope Pius VII. Napoleon, the Enlightenment's favorite strongman, seized papal territories in 1809 and had Pius VII imprisoned in Fontainebleau until 1814.

What's the point? What does any of this have to do with the death of Pope John Paul II and the liberal elite's reaction to it? A lot, actually. The Church remains the single most potent obstacle to the enlightened pretensions of modern liberalism, and the revolutionary children of Diderot still seek to control the papacy, evident in their envy masquerading as admiration and their angling disguised as advice to a "troubled Church." Since they can't get away with imprisoning popes anymore -- though a group of Dutch liberals did try to prosecute Pope John Paul II, declaring him a criminal for having violated a "hate crimes" code (he had simply reiterated the Church's teaching that homosexual behavior is sinful) -- they are reduced to controlling popes through media propaganda and pressure, which at the moment means mau-mauing timid or heretical churchmen into naming a liberal one.

On the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times and other organs of predictable anti-Catholic bias has come a blast of unsolicited advice to a leaderless Church. Why would people who hate the Church pose as reformers who know what's best for it? Why would they care so passionately about the direction of a religion to which they don't belong? For the same reason the French philosophes and revolutionaries monitored and pressured the Church: it is a force that they must either neutralize or hijack in order to achieve their designs for the world. Look at the immense, obsessional energy that the left spends on trying to pressure the Church into green-lighting their favorite sexual sins. Why do they care so much about what the Church teaches? The reason is that they know that if they could just get the Catholic Church's imprimatur on the Sexual Revolution it would spread everywhere. A liberal Pope, as far as they are concerned, would be even better than a liberal Chief Justice on the Supreme Court.

Modern liberalism is an acid that burns through everything it touches. The Church has shriveled in proportion to its exposure to it. Now those who have long sought its death present themselves, carrying more of this acid, as its healer, and even, as Thomas Cahill wrote in the New York Times, finger Pope John Paul II, who resisted it, as the Church's enemy. "He may, in time to come, be credited with destroying his church," writes Cahill, who blames the Pope for "intellectual incompetents" and "mindless sycophants" in the episcopate. "The situation is dire. Anyone can walk into a Catholic church on a Sunday and see pews, once filled to bursting, now sparsely populated with gray heads." He then proposes a "solution," which amounts to trading the teachings of Jesus Christ for modern liberalism. This Op-Ed is worth remembering when the liberals, both outside and inside the Church, begin their march for "reforms" on the grave of Pope John Paul II. The roses that they lay on it have many thorns.

George Neumayr is executive editor or The American Spectator.


Monday, April 11, 2005

John Connolly: Cemetery Dance's Interview With the Author

by Rick Koster, 2005

This is another in a series of periodic columns that explore early and/or seminal works by established authors in the genre - focusing not just on the book itself but what the publishing climate was like at the time, what the writer learned from the whole experience, and other sagacious thoughts bubbling thereof. John Connolly is the Irish crime novelist whose Maine-based private eye series, featuring Charlie Parker, comprises some of the darkest yet most empathetic work in the genre. Too, as with fellow literary thrillerist James Lee Burke, Connolly has not, over the course of such classic Parker efforts as Every Dead Thing, Dark Hollow and White Road, been afraid to venture into the supernatural - whether these events are the imaginings of the tragic Parker or actual paranormal phenomena. In his recent stand-alone novel, Bad Men, Connolly made no efforts to stay away from decidedly haunted terrain, and the newly-out Nocturnes, his first collection of short fiction, embraces ghost stories, horror, and supernatural folktales warmly. Great stuff. It was with the third Parker novel, The Killing Kind, that Connolly perhaps blew the door open in the marriage between PI fiction and the supernatural. Featuring the slimy Pudd, whose affection for spiders-as-weaponry is a high point in villainy, The Killing Kind addresses Good versus Evil in a truly religious context - and all these elements mesh to create a true work of brilliance. Connolly, whose next Parker novel, The Black Angel, will be published in June, recently spoke with Cemetery Dance about The Killing Kind, Pudd, and that aspect of publishing that would differentiate between mystery and horror - and perhaps punish those who would try to work one rather than the other.

* * *

Cemetery Dance: To me, there's always been a supernatural presence to your work, but it seems like it took a trampoline-jump forward with Elias Pudd and The Killing Kind which is the third in a series starring Maine private detective Charlie Parker. Do you agree with that, or does Pudd simply represent another aspect or personification of Evil that can be found in all your books?

Connolly: Most writers never expect to get published, really, and the ones who do should probably be avoided like the plague. I was kind of taken aback when Every Dead Thing was accepted, and suddenly I had the sort of panic attack that a lot of writers probably get: "Hey, wait a minute, there's all sorts of stuff in there that maybe I should look at again, now that we're being serious and all!" I got over it, though, and by the time the book was accepted I was already well into the writing of Dark Hollow, and I knew the path that book was taking. But I suppose that acceptance of Every Dead Thing changed the way that I approached the writing of the books, and I became, well, not more ambitious, but I realized there were elements in the novels that I found particularly interesting, and I became determined that I was going to write, not a series, but a sequence, in which each novel would follow on from the next, and in which each would offer a number of revelations about the character, and perhaps make some implications about the universe in which he lived. It's a moral universe, and one in which the idea of reparation for one's sins and the possibility of salvation are not just interesting religious or philosophical speculations, but are crucial to the way in which one lives one's life. But the hope of salvation must be predicated on a belief in a life beyond this one, and in faith in a divine presence of some form. If there is a presence or force for good outside of human affairs, then equally there must be a force for evil. So Pudd, in the end, represents the first step towards Parker's recognition of that presence, and The Killing Kind represents a kind of sea change in the nature of the books.

CD: For the reader maybe just getting to know John Connolly through your latest, the stand-alone Bad Men,or perhaps because they're starting at the beginning of the Charlie Parker series with Every Dead Thing,"explain in a few sentences what The Killing Kind is about.

Connolly: The Killing Kind deals with religious obsession, or rather with religion being used as a flag of convenience under which one can inflict harm on others. Parker begins investigating the disappearance of an obscure religious group, the Aroostook Baptists, from their community in northern Maine in the 1960s. I tend to do a lot of historical research for the books, and to base the plots as much in the reality of a time and place as I possibly can. Maine, curiously, was a hotbed of religious lunacy for a very long time, so I hardly had to make up anything at all. Actually, shortly after the book was published in the US in 2003, a Lutheran congregation in New Sweden, Maine, was poisoned by a disaffected member who put arsenic in the post-service coffee, killing one old man. It's horrible, but in a strange way I felt vindicated...

CD: Talk about Pudd, who is without question one of the creepiest people in fiction, for any reason, ever. Where did he come from? Were you gardening or playing pool or walking the dog when he popped into your head? Or did his nefarious character just evolve as you were writing?

Connolly: How characters emerge from my imagination and enter the books is a process that I don't really understand. I don't know where Pudd came from. I began writing, and suddenly he was just there, fully formed, with all of his quirks and obsessions. If I were to take a step back, I can see traces of him in Stritch in Dark Hollow, who represents a dry run for Pudd, in a way (just as Pudd is a step on the way to Brightwell in The Black Angel, I think.) Stritch is foul, but he is perhaps less well-defined than Pudd, and more of an ogre. When I was growing up, the first series of novels I ever devoured was Ian Fleming's James Bond series. I loved those books. I read them at a very young and very impressionable age. I think I was about nine, which is, come to think of it, maybe a little young. (I kept wondering why all the women had limps, or scars, or club feet. I don't think I was fully up to speed with Fleming's odd notions about the female sex.) What particularly appealed to me was the quality of the villains. They were real, honest-to-nastiness, larger than life monsters, and perhaps some of that leached into my own writing. In addition, all of the novels have been influenced, to some degree, by folk tales and the idea - based on something the Brothers Grimm once said - that perhaps the darker type of mystery novel represents the latest incarnation of the folk tale for our age.

CD: Did you fixate on spiders because of a personal aversion to them - or just because you know most of the rest of us hate them?

Connolly: Strangely, I don't have a problem with spiders at all. I have a problem with their cobwebs in the corners of my house, because they make it look like I never clean the place, but spiders themselves I rather like. Having said that, I read a book called The Red Hourglass a year or two before I wrote The Killing Kind, and that book deals with predation in nature, particularly insect/ arachnid predation. It was a big influence on The Killing Kind, and it kind of put me off wanting to form lifelong bonds with things that have more legs than seem strictly necessary. Recluse spiders are particularly nasty, and that gave me the idea for the opening sequence of the book. When Pudd arrived on the scene, he just naturally took on the characteristics of his pets. He is a spider in human form.

CD: Pudd surfaces again, briefly, in the coda to The White Road, which is the sequel to The Killing Kind. Without giving too much away, are you suggesting that hell is real and tailored to the individual?

Connolly: The books continually throw out ideas and images, and that's certainly one of them. In The Black Angel, the new book, it's suggested that hell is simply an existence eternally cut off from the presence of divine. If you're not saved, then you're left to wander with the knowledge of all that you've lost. If there is a hell, I think that's maybe closer to its nature. Mind you, the Bosch depictions of the torture of sinners look pretty rotten too, so I'm not sure which is the better deal...

CD: To my mind, you and James Lee Burke are by far the finest and most literary examples of writers crossing what might be called "thrillerdom" with the supernatural. Obviously, the two styles can mutually coexist. Are you both successful in spite of an increasingly ordered and narrowly-focused publishing industry - or are you early examples of what might be an emerging trend?

Connolly: I love Burke's work. I went on a little pilgrimage to Montana to interview him when my first book came out. I just took time out in the middle of the tour and spent a couple of days talking to him, and came back feeling better for the experience. He's a lovely, decent human being, and certainly the best prose writer in mystery fiction. He and Ross Macdonald were huge influences on me. I don't think I'd be writing what I write if I hadn't encountered their work (and the novels of Ed McBain, which were the first mystery stories I ever read.) Anyway, I could feel myself almost spasm as I considered your question. It's one of my pet peeves, this urge to pigeonhole writers and their work. I know that books have to be filed in some kind of order, but it raises larger questions about the limitations imposed on writers and what they do. For that reason, I tend to like the use of the term "mystery" to describe my books, instead of "crime" or "detective fiction." If you go right back to the roots of the word, a mystery is a revelation from God that can't be understood by human reasoning alone. From the very beginning, it has its origins in the divine and the supernatural. The funny thing is that most mystery novels are not very mysterious at all: what seems complex and beyond understanding at the beginning is often actually presented as being (relatively) simple and straightforward once the solution is revealed.

Perhaps I wanted to restore some of that old sense of mystery to my books, and that seemed to gel naturally with my own faith. I'm a bad, lapsed Catholic, but the tenets don't shake off so easily. Through those concepts of sin, reparation, forgiveness, and redemption, the books are suffused with Catholicism, even if God is never mentioned. Nevertheless, I find increasingly that more conservative mystery readers and reviewers are uncomfortable with what I do (while apparently being quite willing to accept self-aware cats that investigate crimes, mystery-solving ghosts of old ladies and, may the saints preserve us all, even bloody Beatrix Potter and her animals sticking their noses into nastiness.) It's infinitely depressing. For so long, mystery writers and readers had to contend with the belief among more "literary" types that their fiction was somehow inferior, or less worthy of notice. Judgment was passed upon them, and they were found wanting. It makes me want to bang my head against a wall when I see members of the mystery community being equally, if not more, judgmental now. Have they learned nothing? Their reluctance to countenance experimentation, the cross-fertilization of genres, even social commentary -- in fact anything that would allow the mystery field to grow and generate new and interesting forms -- is one of the great obstacles that the genre faces. (I read a piece on George Pelecanos in a respected crime magazine which criticized him for using crime fiction to explore issues arising out of poverty and racism in Washington DC, as if a) they had no part to play in mystery fiction and just distracted from the plot and b) as if poverty and crime were not, at some level, connected.)

It pains me to say it, but for all the great quantity of material being produced, mystery fiction in recent years has rarely come up with anything worthy to stand alongside the best of literary fiction in the same period. Even in the last twelve months, has there been a mystery novel that explored the possibilities of writing and storytelling in the way that, say, David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas did? The most interesting attempts to explore the possibilities of crime writing have often come from outside the genre: Pynchon's Crying of Lot 49 and Eco's The Name of the Rose spring to mind. So: do I think that there's an emerging trend? No, not really. There are some very good writers in the genre, and a number of them are trying to do things that are a little different, but the mainstream isn't called that for nothing, and those who experiment with the form will always run into difficulties.

CD: Is the supernatural something you've wanted to integrate from the word go in your writing career, or did you consciously think that, from a commercial context, at least starting out, the supernatural or horror elements would have to be sneaked through the back door, so to speak?

Connolly: I don't think that, commercially, the supernatural elements are helpful, and they're always going to provoke unease among some readers, even if, in the Parker novels, there is always the suspicion that they are not real, and that this is a man so overcome by grief and anger that he is really in the midst of an extended nervous breakdown. Bad Men and Nocturnes are more explicit, and I was really surprised by how well Bad Men was received. It was great, just great. I've loved ghost stories ever since I was a child, particularly the classic English form epitomized by M.R. James. Combined with my interest in folk tales, it didn't seem unnatural for me to try to fuse those elements together in my work.

CD: Here in the states, Nocturnes, a collection of shorter fiction, has just been published - all of which is concerned with hauntings and demon-ness and the supernatural. Are you comfortable with the phrase "horror fiction," and if so is would Nocturnes in fact be a horror release? And, in your opinion, as someone who lives in Ireland and has written extensively about the states, is the publishing climate in the UK and Ireland more receptive to writers breaking in to the horror field than America?

Connolly: Unfortunately, "horror" remains a dirty word. There are some chains that won't stock supernatural fiction, and there are readers and critics who instantly dismiss it. Perhaps it could be argued that some of the more gruesome, schlocky stuff hasn't helped the genre's image, but it is desperately unfair on many of those who continue to explore it, whether through reading, writing, or both. Nevertheless, no, I don't think Europe is more receptive to horror writing. By this point, I don't even think that "horror" is a helpful description, as the best of the genre is often about much more than that. Maybe we need to find an alternative, one that both encompasses the variety in the genre while at the same time avoiding the negative image that has become associated with it. Frankly, I like the phrase "supernatural fiction". I'd even opt for "mystery", except the mystery readers would probably want me pilloried for it.