The Musings of

Something full of magic, religion, bullsh*t.

Thursday, December 23, 2004


In an effort to relive my free-spirited youth, I am taking off the next 10 days to visit family and friends. I will attempt to update here and there, but I bet I get so lazy during my vacation that I blow it off.

Whatever the case, I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy & Safe New Year.

Centinel 11:35 AM # | |

How to look like an idiot

1. Kick a junior high student out of a school dance for wearing a Santa suit;

2. Insist that the dance was a "holiday" event, and that a "Santa Clause" costume is "inappropriate";

3. State that the expulsion was because "there is a separation of church and state" and that dressing up like Santa violates that;

4. When asked if Santa really has a religious connotation, don't answer the question;

5. Admit that there is no policy covering the situation, then admit that you don't believe the student was making a "religious statement" anyway;

6. Change your reasoning to be that you were enforcing the dance dress policy, because it was a "dress up dance" and the student was dressed up in, well, the wrong dress up clothes;

7. State that you were concerned with the white beard because it is difficult to know who's behind it;

8. Tell the kid to leave until he's changed his clothing, admit that you didn't think he had any other clothes with him, then don't check to see if he's left the building; and

9. Finally, blame the kid for leaving the building after telling him the above.
Centinel 10:45 AM # | |

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Centinel's Field Guide to the North American Liberal, p. 5

The courts MUST uphold the decision of local election officials to count hundreds of ballots "found" or "produced" weeks after the election-- and of which 300 were questionably marked -- in liberal-leaning areas.

The courts MUST overturn the decision of local election officials to count 5 ballots that were questionably marked for a conservative candidate where the officials are charged by law to make the decision.
Centinel 2:36 PM # | |


Why is it that every time there is a serious attack on Coalition forces in Iraq, liberals that I talk to bring it up with false gravity and a gleam in their eyes like someone who has just inherited some money from a recently deceased relative they didn't like? Don't they know that I want to punch them at that moment?
Centinel 11:26 AM # | |

Voting with their feet

Is it my imagination, or have the "blue staters" gotten even more petty and vindictive since they lost the election? To read some of these screeds and funny-number games, you'd think that the South and West are racist meccas where we are all a bunch of idiots who worship Jerry Falwell, kill gays, and love a good war.

I think I speak for many "red staters" when I say, "You're damn skinny, we are." We're more than willing to perpetrate the myths if it will keep those in blue states from moving here. Unfortunately, new census numbers show that, while our liberal, Yankee brethren talk a mean game, they're moving to the red states in droves. U.S. Today is reporting that there has been a dramatic population shift toward the red states. The story concludes that
If the trend continues at its current pace, states in the Northeast and Midwest that have been population powerhouses since the 19th century will lose their dominance to Sun Belt states by 2010.
Far from being a backwater, the red states are gaining people and political power at the expense of the blue states. If current trends hold out, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana will be losing congressional seats to Florida, Texas, Arizona and Utah after the next census. "It's the New America," said William Frey, demographer at the Brookings Institution, "It's taking population and political clout from the highly urbanized Old America."

I guess we're not so backwards after all.
Centinel 7:39 AM # | |

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Go Dukes!

I never thought I'd say this, but I want to give a shout to my alma mater, James Madison University, for winning its first NCAA Division I-AA football national championship.

Centinel 1:09 PM # | |

Hiding my candy

I can't tell you how proud I am to be #1 on this particular search.
Centinel 12:48 PM # | |

Thursday, December 16, 2004

A license for love

If stupidity were snow, most legislative bodies would be ski resorts. Just ask Fitz-Hume over at BTQ who was recently asked by a state legislator to draft a bill repealing a federal law. While our state delegates, representatives, and senators are prone to passing stupid laws, they don't have anything on city and town councils. Local legislators generally get the double squeeze -- (1) they aren't, how shall I put this, of "Lincolnesque" stature, and (2) they are forced to live next to the people they represent, so I'm sure a lot of them get bitched at in the grocery store by old ladies who think there ought to be a stop light at every intersection and, damn it, why can't they do something about those skateboarders downtown? The long-and-short of this is that some of them pass unnecessary and ridiculous laws because, well, they have to do something and most of the good things have already been done (I refer to this as "Centinal's Theory of Legislative Inertia").

A good example of this problem is happening in scenic San Antonio, Texas. It appears that yesterday the city council down there unanimously approved an ordinance that (cough) exotic dancers must not only have permits, but must wear them while . . . um, performing.

The reasoning -- and I do use that word in it's broadest definition -- behind the ordinance is to "mak[e] it easier for police to identify dancers." Look, if your police officers can't walk into the local strip joint and immediately identify the roosters from the hens then you've got a bigger problem that unlicensed boobies, my friend.

But that's not the real issue here. Clearly, the majority of the good folks of San Antonio don't support the arts, as it were, and want to go all Democrat and regulate the industry into the ground. Unfortunately, there's a dangerous downside to the council's edict -- any idiot can get a dancer's real name (no, NDC, her name isn't really "Reb DeVille") and her address off her permit. I'm sure you've noticed this at your local hair stylist/barber while staring aimlessly at their barber permit while they attempt to make wine out of raisens. The thing is, there really isn't a big problem with people stalking their barber, but for some odd reason, people men want to get to know strippers in a very deep and intimate way and are willing to follow the course of true love all the way to their private residence to achieve that end.

Of course, there's already been a lawsuit filed in this matter, but there shouldn't have to be. I can only hope that the 11 councilmen who supported this thing didn't think of the ramifications of their vote, because the thought that they would put puritanical interests ahead of the safety of some of their constituents is just too ridiculous.
Centinel 11:39 PM # | |


There's this guy called Mayhem who worked for years as a bouncer at several places in my neighborhood. If you ever saw him, you would instantly know why they called him "Mayhem": He was about 6'5", weighed about 350 lbs, and looked like the meanest biker sent over from Central Casting. He had long hair and a beard that he kept braided. Dude, nobody messed with Mayhem.

I never knew him that well. When he was working, he was downright surly, but if you ran into him while he was off the guy was damn-near friendly. I remember one night he had a couple of beers with me at a bar. We talked about his affinity for wearing kilts (if you're that big, you can wear one and expect exactly no shit), and the weight he had lost on his diet (something like 80 lbs).

I also remember a story he told me about hanging out with Ken "The World's Most Dangerous Man" Shamrock. It seems the two of them were at an outdoor concert a few years ago, when somebody hit Shamrock in the back of the head with a bottle. Now, I cannot stress how big a mistake it would be to toss a bottle at the head of Ken Shamrock, but it seems that, accidentally or not, someone actually did it. According to Mayhem, Shamrock whipped around to go after the soon-to-be-dead hurler, and Mayhem instinctively grabbed Shamrock across the body to stop him. Shamrock turned around and Mayhem fully expected to be taken apart, but Shamrock stopped in mid punch realizing what he was doing. The thing I remember thinking is how weird it was to hear a monstrous individual talk about having his butt kicked. It drove home the fact that, no matter how tough you are, there is always someone tougher.

Mayhem has been on my mind quite a bit lately. You see, he was killed last week. I'm sure you saw the story, but you probably didn't even hear his real name -- Jeff Thompson -- mentioned for 2 reasons: (1) the police didn't release it quickly because they were unable to contact his next of kin and (2) he was killed in an attack on a semi-famous individual, "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, formerly guitarist for Pantera.

I know several people who knew Dimebag, and they have nothing but good things to say about the guy. He was an amazing guitarist with an unbelievable memory for names who loved hanging out with friends and fans alike. What has bothered some of these friends is that in the chaos surrounding the shooting, Mayhem's death has become an afterthought, and his heroic deeds have gone unsung. To right that record, the following was taken from eyewitness accounts (written by Karl Kuenning) of what happened that night [Warning -- the following is a bit graphic]:

Tubbs was stage left and watched the entire surreal event unfold just a few feet in front of him. He says he was probably the last person to talk to Dimebag having said something to him as he entered the stage. As the monitor guy for this gig, his mixing console was only about 5 or 6 feet away from the lead guitarist. According to Tubbs, the shooter (Nathan Gale) entered the stage from the stage right area (not from the audience as previously reported) As Gale determinedly ran towards Dimebag the stage right roadie "Stoney" ran after him. "Mayhem" saw Gale and converged on him from stage left. Neither one got to center stage fast enough. Gale fired at least five bullets at point blank range into the doomed artist's body. The final bullet was a fatal head shot fired as he went down. "He was dead before he hit the stage", says Tubbs. "The way the attack happened, nothing could have saved him...nothing," He also remembers the feedback (a droning hum at about 600 Hz, notes the trained ear of the audio tech)

The next few minutes were confused, but this is what else Tubbs remembers.

As Dimebag hit the floor the shooter now turned his attention to Tubbs (still only about five feet away). Gale raised the gun and aimed it at Tubbs who was now literally looking down the barrel of the gun. However, before he could shoot Tubbs, the two Roadies ("Stoney" and "Mayhem") tackled Gale from opposite sides. Neither one had a weapon, and both were putting their own lives at risk to try to stop the shooter from killing anyone else. Erin "Stoney" Halk was an ex-Marine and Jeffrey "Mayhem" Thompson was a massive 6'1'' man [Ed.-- try at least 6'5"] and a very scary looking dude, so I'm sure they both thought they had a better than even chance to disarm the gunman. They were wrong. We now know that Nathan Gale was also a trained ex-Marine and he dropped his first empty clip and slapped another one in the semi-automatic 9 mm pistol in the blink of an eye. He killed both of these heroes within seconds of his first victim. Gale had at least five clips of bullets and he reloaded at least once, but probably twice, says Tubbs. As "Stoney" and "Mayhem" died making the ultimate sacrifice, two more roadies and several members of the audience also rose to the occasion and stormed the stage. Chris Paluska (the DamagePlan Tour Manager) took a shot to the stomach, and is still in serious condition in a local hospital (according to the most recent report). John "Kat" Brooks (the band's drum roadie) also took a hit (but thankfully has now been released from the hospital). According to Tubbs, both were definitely trying to subdue Gale.
I'll always remember Mayhem as a hero, and now maybe you will too.

Centinel 3:35 PM # | |

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Shame on me

I was robbed yesterday. I live in a urban, residential loft building with security-coded outer doors. While Mrs. C and I were at work, some member of the criminal class gained access to our hallway, and somehow entered our loft. The thing is, the door he came through was one we don't often use, and we are generally sure to lock. I remember looking to verify that the door was locked before I left that morning, but I couldn't swear to it.

Whatever the case, the jackass got in and liberated Mrs. C's jewelry and my computer, digital camera, and the scanner/printer thing. Oh, and he got about $10 in change. All in all, it's not very interesting. Due to the layout of the loft, we didn't even realize we'd been taken until after 10:00 last night. Considering the time of discovery and the fact that we really didn't lose all that much (the camera was already broken and the only expensive jewelry taken was a pearl necklace (I hear what you're thinking, perverts)), I made an executive decision not to call the cops. The odds of actually catching the bastard and getting the stuff back are likely nil, and having to stay up till midnight to make a report just blows.

The interesting thing isn't what was taken, but how Mrs. C and I are responding emotionally to the invasion. Her reaction has been, I believe, typical for a woman -- and I don't mean that in a sexist way. She is upset at the loss of her jewelry and some things on the hard drive, but mostly she is bothered by the fact that someone had the temerity to enter our loft. She has been made aware that our sanctum isn't so secure, and now she feels unsafe, paranoid, and a bit violated. I believe her reaction is normal and would feel the same were I in her shoes, yet it is not completely, well, rational. Having been bitten once, she now believes the world is full of snakes. Of course, her perception is colored by the perceived magnitude of the potential harm (especially since she is a petite woman and the invader was almost assuredly a man or men) and not the odds of said have reoccuring. Risk is a funny thing, and it is difficult to measure when you are emotionally involved with the outcome.

On the other hand, I would have predicted that I would respond with anger and frustration, but the feeling I'm getting is more fatalistic. When I made the decision to move to my neighborhood, I recognized that I lived in a higher crime area and accepted that there was some risk involved. As a good conservative, I naturally assume evil abounds. Therefore, I must also assume that if I leave a something on the hood of my car, it will be stolen. Continuing the logic, if I know men are evil, yet I carelessly leave them an opening, then I can't very well cry about it if they take advantage of my laxness. Put another way, my negligence contributed to the final bad act -- it doesn't absolve him by any means, but it has forced me to not bitch about it. Not surprisingly, I feel that if the robber had, say, broken a window to gain entrance, then that would be another matter -- I would have fulfilled my minimum obligation (locking the window) and would have every right to be mad at the robber for taking the unnecessary step of breaking into my home.

Of course, had I been in the place yesterday I would have shot the bastard -- but that is the risk HE must accept.

Centinel 2:31 PM # | |

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The end of heroes

Gerald Zandstra finds a link between The Incredibles, tort reform, and everyday heroes.
Centinel 12:34 PM # | |

Another Christmas miracle?

In Washington the King County Election Director has "discovered" 521 new ballots from his Democrat dominated county -- 6 weeks after the election. The absentee ballots were allegedly rejected because the signatures on the ballots didn't match the signatures on the voting registrations. As the votes were never counted, the Director has indicated that they will be certified to the county's previous tally. There is nothing the courts can do to stop this certification, although the state supreme court was successful in preventing the Democrats from counting 3,000 previously rejected ballots.

This "discovery" wouldn't matter -- indeed, I'm sure it wouldn't have even happened -- were the state not in it's second, hand recount of ballots in the governor's race. As of the first, machine recount, Republican Rossi held a 42-vote lead over Democrat Gregoire. Unfortunately for the Dems, with 24 of the state's 39 counties recounted, Rossi has picked up an extra 46 votes, so their new votes will need to split pretty strongly for Gregoire to change the outcome.

Personally, I don't care who is the governor of Washington. There's no chance I will ever live near there, and, to be honest, the more blue it is, the more likely it is that we here in the red states will benefit from business fleeing excessive regulations and taxes. That being said, I do have a problem with using constant recounts as a stall while you try to dredge up enough votes to beat your opponent.

Look, I support making sure that every citizen can vote (once!) no matter what their race, color, gender, or creed, but I'm not so enamored with "democracy" that I'm willing to damage certainty in the election process. While I'm not saying that what is happening in King County is improper or illegal, it sure looks funny and it probably should be. There needs to be limits in accepting new ballots. What if they hadn't been found until next July? Would the Dems expect Gregoire to be certified as governor after Rossi had served in the position for 1/2 a year? I don't think so.
Centinel 12:18 PM # | |

Monday, December 13, 2004

To whoever . . . or is it whomever?

It seems 'tis the season for housekeeping , makeovers, and updating blogrolls. As such, I have added a few myself. When I started this sad excuse for a blog, I agreed with myself (when I was able to get quorum) not to be a linkwhore and link to everyone and try to get links from same. It turns out that I have been wildly successful beyond my wildest dreams of making sure no one actually reads this blog. In fact, at last count over 6 billion people not only weren't linking to me or reading my posts, but they had not even accessed my site.

I have found, however, that there are some blogs that I like to read regularly. While I have not had any intention of giving them any recognition, I have decided to add the links for the sole reason that I am tired of accessing them through other people's blogrolls or typing their names into my browser.

Who am I kidding? These people are all more interesting than I am and are infinitely better writers. The bastards.

Note: If you are the owner of one of the linked blogs, I do not expect a reciprocal link. To do so would imply that you actually read my blog and would reflect very poorly on your judgment. Some of you may one day be forced to defend your views and nanny-hiring practices before a public body. Should that happen, I don't want to be a subject of questioning.

2nd Note: If you have already linked to me, I want you to know that I love you and will always be there for you, but, you know, not in a gay way.
Centinel 1:43 PM # | |

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Centinel's Field Guide to the North American Liberal, p. 4

TV stations have a clear right and obligation to reject advertisements from conservative groups because they are "inflammatory."

The FCC should refuse to renew the licenses of TV stations that reject advertisements from liberal groups because they are denying their viewers "access to diverse programming," which is "vital to free expression."
Centinel 3:13 PM # | |

Queens of Denial

An editorial in today's Boston Globe regarding the battle for the DNC Chairmanship effectively summarizes the rationalizations that have become Democrat mantra since the election: that the election was lost because the Democrats were somehow deficient in getting their message to the American people. They are convinced that if they can get a chairman committed to effectively marketing their positions then they will clean up in 2006 and 2008. The writer, Douglas J. Hattaway, states

While the DNC has excelled in fund-raising and get-out-the-vote organizing, it has done nothing to build a Democratic brand that clearly communicates the party's vision, values, and goals. That is one reason why so few voters understand what it means to be a Democrat. The lack of a strong party identity puts candidates at a severe disadvantage in the electoral marketplace.

To succeed, the DNC must operate less like a political campaign and more like a marketing business. That means significant investments in communications infrastructure and activities to deliver message to voters between presidential cycles. It requires an understanding that such investments will show returns over the long term. It can result in a strong, new brand identity for Democrats that will vastly improve the party's electoral prospects at all levels
I can understand the importance of fundraising -- without money you are unable to get your message out to the people -- but the threshold amount of cash necessary to achieve market saturation is much lower than the amount that was spent on either campaign in the last cycle. If Americans wanted to know where John Kerry stood on the issues they could easily find the information (assuming, of course, John Kerry had only taken one or two stands on the issues at issue). If attacks on Kerry's war record were successful it was not because the DNC didn't "build a Democratic brand" or because they failed to "counter the GOP's marketing machine," it was because Kerry's campaign refused to answer its attackers.

The Democrats' constant search for an excuse ("It was the gay marriage initiatives!" Kerry lost Ohio because Republican intimidation kept 120,000 minority voters away from the polls!") belies their lack of self examination. They refuse to consider the possibility that the public rejected them not because of a marketing gap, but because they have a poor product. It is inconceivable to them that when presented with a clear choice between Republican and Democrat values, the public generally chooses the former.

By the Democrats' logic, Krispy Kreme is successful because they run effective nationwide advertising, and the fact that their doughnuts taste like angel kisses has nothing to do with it.

That is not to say that professed values alone are enough to win an election. George Bush I, for example, demonstrated that a Republican who acts like a Democrat will get beaten by the real thing. However, all the email lists in the world are not going to be enough to convince a majority of the voting public to choose government centralization, protectionism, and moral relativism over individualism, free markets, and traditional moral values. Or, put another way, no amount of savvy packaging can turn goat turds into, well, Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Therefore, in an altruistic attempt to assist the Democrats achieve their goal of effective marketing, I give my official endorsement to Howard Dean for DNC Chair. I can't think of anything that could help the Republicans more than moving the Democrat party further to the left while taking advantage of new ways to more effectively communicate their liberal principles.
Centinel 12:35 PM # | |

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Big surprise

A recent poll of Floridians shows that former-NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani and Senator Hillary Clinton of NY are the frontrunners for President in 2008.

In other news, Florida is filled with New Yorkers.
Centinel 2:59 PM # | |

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

One down . . .

The Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs speculates that the following quotes may shed some light on why Tom Brokaw was booed last month when he was introduced at an OU Sooners football game:

"I thought from the outset that [Reagan's] supply-side theory was just a disaster. I knew of no one that felt it was going to work."
-Tom Brokaw, 1983

"You're opposed to abortion in any form. You also have opposed the ERA, and you're opposed to increasing the minimum wage, which is important to a lot of women out there. Aren't you going to have a hard time selling Dan Quayle to the women of this country. [sic]"
-Tom Brokaw to Dan Quayle, 1988

"Wasn't it the Republican Party under the leadership of Ronald Reagan especially, and George Bush who put the country in the fix it is now. [sic]"
-Tom Brokaw, questioning Rep. Mike Crapo, 1993

-Tom Brokaw when asked in 2003 if he sees a liberal bias in the mainstream media. Brokaw says that "journalists see that part of their role- which I think is appropriate- is to represent the views of those who are underrepresented in the social context or the political context and to make sure they're not overlooked and their wrongs get the bright light of journalistic sunshine"
If anyone had asked me, I would have predicted the Brokaw booing. A few years ago a friend of mine was working for a Republican U.S. Senate candidate. He told me that he was working the stadium on game day in Norman, when he spotted his boss's Democrat rival, a sitting congressman. My friend spent all day getting little boys to go up and literally kick the Dem in the shins just by mentioning his record on gun votes to their dads.
Centinel 1:58 PM # | |

Centinel's Field Guide to the North American Liberal, p. 3

Parents who complain to the FCC regarding indecency on network television are "bozos" and "prigs" who are trying to "censor [the] media and cripple the First Amendment" and must be stopped.

Women's studies students who try to get a student paper banned for indecency are "protecting women's rights" and should receive university credit for their efforts.

Centinel 11:02 AM # | |

It's a Christmas miracle

Mark this date, because it is the first time I believe I have ever actually agreed with Maureen Dowd on anything. Of course, I don't feel as, um, violent as she does about the issue.
Centinel 10:12 AM # | |

Monday, December 06, 2004

Hedging bets in Texas

You have to respect Texas -- of the 38 states that allow the death penalty, it seems to be the only one willing to enforce its law to the fullest. Since 1976, Texas has executed 336 people -- over 3 times the amount of their closest rival. As Ron White says, "In Texas, if you kill someone, we'll kill you back."

Texas hard line on crime in general has been a comforting bit of constancy in a sea of shifting sands -- a beacon of retribution that drives liberals to apoplexy. Imagine my distress, then, when I ran across this article. Evidently, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals -- the state's highest criminal court -- has made a proposal that would grant $20 million dollars of sweet tax revenue to several law school clinics for them to . . . are you ready for this . . . investigate prisoners' claims that they were wrongly convicted.

Up until this time I was under the silly notion that investigations into the guilt or innocence of individuals were called "trials" and were only subject to appeal. Evidently, Texas has decided that everyone deserves another bite at the apple. What is Texas trying to tell us? That they have so little faith in their trial system that they are willing to spend millions of dollars to uncover its screw-ups? For that matter, has there ever been a felon who did not claim to be wrongly convicted?

Texas mollycoddling criminals! What's next? Male Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders?

Update: Article link repaired.
Centinel 1:02 PM # | |

Sunday, December 05, 2004

The stripper trade gap

As fantastic as it sounds, until this week there was a program in Canada to import "exotic dancers" from countries such as Russia and Romania in an attempt to maintain the viability of Canadian topless entertainment institutions. The recruitment had been a success, bringing in over 800 pole dancers to Canada last year, but the controversy surrounding the program was just too great to maintain it.

It is clear that a number of Canucks did not recognize the tremedous benefits of their open border policies. As proponents have argued, stopping the program will only result in a return to the dark days when strippers had to pose as nuns to get in the country. One can only hope that this devastating setback will have a positive side -- to encourage young Canadian women to choose this proud profession the clubs may have to focus on improving their poor public health track record and the market may have to adjust to grant more than a measly C$10 for a table dance.

I think as Americans we should all be thankful that we are able to fill our nude dancing clubs with top quality domestic workers, but we should always be willing to open our borders to foreign sex industry workers yearning to be free.

(Kudos to Rice at Southern Appeal for his vigilance on this issue.)
Centinel 11:50 PM # | |

Friday, December 03, 2004

TGIF anecdote

Many years ago, two up-and-coming Democrat politicos, Candidate A and Candidate B, faced off with a third, lesser-known candidate, Candidate C, for a safe Democrat congressional seat in Oklahoma.* Candidate A had a reputation for being a crook (which was later proven by a conviction for funneling nearly $300,000 into a congressional campaign), and Candidate B was rumored to be gay (which persists to this day). The story is that sometime late in the campaign the 3 candidates participated in a debate. It seems that the day before the debate, a new poll had come out showing Candidate C trailing the other two men for the seat. During the debate, and in an act of evident frustration, Candidate C motioned to the other two candidates sitting behind him and said, "I can't believe that I'm running against a crook and homosexual, and I'm losing!" To which Candidate A raised his hand and loudly stated, "I'm the crook!"

* The names have been withheld to protect the innocent -- namely your humble blogger from a charge of defamation.
Centinel 1:13 PM # | |

'Tis the season

Here is the one-stop shopping place or those of you looking to buy me a little something or who are just looking for a gift for that hard-to-please conservative in your life.
Centinel 12:44 PM # | |

Dream on

The danger with victory is that it can lead to hubris. While I would love to see the "King of Pork" dethroned, I don't expect to happen until he has been dead for at least 10 years.
Centinel 12:36 PM # | |

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The last, best seat

I miss retail politics. Living in a big city just isn't the same -- maybe you hit a couple of rubber chicken lunches, but unless you are knee deep in the political scene you just don't get any real exposure to an actual candidate.

New Hampshire is retail politics at its best. Thanks to their small population and first primary status, you can't swing a dead libertarian in the Granite State without hitting some politico, be it your local state senator or John McCain. I remember showing up at a lunch meeting to discover that I was sitting next to Steve Forbes. I love Forbes, but do you really want to have small talk at lunch with the guy? I made the strategic move to stick with the flat tax and stay away from the topic of gay parents.

I also remember attending a small wedding in Wolfesboro with former-Sen. Bob Smith (who, sadly, went nuts this past year and had to be put down), where the bride stopped next to him while walking down the aisle and yelled (she was deaf in one ear) "I CAN'T TELL YOU HOW HAPPY I AM THAT YOU COULD MAKE IT!" Bob is something like 6'6" and from the 2 rows behind his bald head looked red enough to fry eggs.

I was reminded of small ball politics today when I found an article about an old acquaintance of mine, Rep. Rick Jore of Montana. I met Rick during his first term as a state representative, and did some work with him during his second election. I wish I had some crazy, funny story to tell about Rick, but he's not what I would call a "funny" guy. He's about as straitforward as they come. I remember that Rick used to carry a pocket-sized copy of the U.S. Constitution with him wherever he went, and the thing was brown from him thumbing through it and covered with small notes he had made. I've known a lot of legislators over the years, but I have never seen one with such an amazing grasp of the Constitution or one who related every bill he voted on to that document. He claims that he started studying the founding documents years ago when he worked at a lumber mill, and he has continued to this day.

Rick lives in a small town in the western part of the state -- the kind of place where everybody knows their state legislators. Jore put his trust in that familiarity and did something that would give nightmares to most legislators: he left the Republican party and decided to run under the Constitutional Party banner. Instead of staying in the safety of a big party, Jore decided to go it on his own, and the result has been a barnburner. The original vote count had Jore beating his Democrat opposition, Jeanne Windham, by a whopping 2 votes, with the GOP candidate a couple of hundred back. Yesterday, the results of the hand recount narrowed the margin to 1 vote with another Jore vote being contested. Today, the second recount showed the thing to be a sister-kisser, tossing the whole thing to the courts. To make matters more interesting, Windham is challenging 5 Jore votes that were "double marked."

This wouldn't be nearly as interesting if control of the State House didn't hinge on the outcome. Currently the House is divided 50-49 for the GOP, and the leadership would likely remain Republican with Jore seated (and Rick will no doubt get a cherry committee assignment for his independent vote). If Windham wins, the Dems get to nominate the Speaker (because the Speaker comes from the same party as the Governor), and the parties will divvy up the committee "floor leaders." In the event of a tie, the governor, Republican Judy Martz, will choose the winner. To forestall this, Windham has sought and received a court order enjoining the Secretary of State from certifying a tie, and has filed a separate suit asking the court to toss the 5 disputed Jore votes. The final fun fact is that, if she can keep things tied up for a few weeks, the new Democrat governor will be inaugurated and he will seat her anyway.

With more intrigue and drama than Desperate Housewives, this thing promises to continue burning well into next year.

Damn, I miss retail politics.
Centinel 5:01 PM # | |

Is affirmative action hurting black law students?

A Lucas Morel editorial for the Ashbrook Center reports that an upcoming article by Richard H. Sander of UCLA in Stanford Law Review tackles the question of whether affirmative action in law school admissions actually benefits black students (here is a pre-publication draft). Not to spoil a good read, but Sander's conclusions are astounding. First, he finds that there are only two real benefits to such policies: (1) black students can expect a 20-50 step bump (out of 184) in the quality of school they would attend if race were not taken into consideration, and (2) over 500 additional black students are able to get into law school than would without affirmative action.

On the other side of the coin, Sanders identifies six major costs to allowing affirmative action:

1. Black students have are at a large academic disadvantage, with nearly 50% of first year black students finishing in the bottom 10% of their respective classes.

2. The poor grades of black students create an attrition rate for black students 135% greater than for white students.

3. Low grades and poor performers also lead to much lower bar passage rates than white students.

4. The job-finding benefits of graduating from a more prestigious school are offset by the comparative lower GPA in 2 out of 3 cases.

5. Few of the 14% of black law students who would not be in law school were preferences abolished become successful lawyers (with on 1/5 passing the bar on the first attempt and, astoundingly, more than 2/3 never passing the bar).

6. According to Sander's calculations, if racial preferences were abolished, we could expect roughly 8% more black attorneys graduating this year and 22% more passing the bar on the first try.

After noting that his research destroys the justification for O'Connor's decision in Grutter, Sanders states,

All of the Supreme Court's decisions about affirmative action in higher education presume that the discrimination involved is fundamentally benign. It is tolerable only because it operates on behalf of a politically vulnerable minority--that is, African Americans. A preferences program that operated on behalf of whites would be unconstitutional beyond question.

Yet if the findings in this Article are correct, blacks are the victims of law school programs of affirmative action, not the beneficiaries. The programs set blacks up for failure in school, aggravate attrition rates, turn the bar exam into a major hurdle, disadvantage most blacks in the job market, and depress the overall production of black lawyers. Whites, in contrast, arguably benefit from preferences in a number of ways.
Sander, a confirmed liberal, admits that his calculations regarding the effect of racial preferences on matriculating black lawyers is open to debate, but he states that even under a best case scenario such preferences are of no actual benefit to blacks. It doesn't take a Subway Sandwich Artist to tell that this conclusion is going to spawn a cottage industry of critique articles (Milbarge alone should be able to drum up 5,000 words without breaking a sweat). Anticipating the heat, Sander states over and over that the negative conclusions in his article are not a result of race, but of less qualified candidates being allowed access to law school. I have little doubt that this honest disclaimer will have as much effect stemming the hellfire from the race-quota supporters as a blade of grass has of damming a river, but hope springs eternal.

While it's clear that Sander believes that affirmative action should be abolished, it is equally clear that quota pushers will be churning out there own numbers contesting this entire conclusion. Sanders, realizing this, has suggested instead that all black law applicants should receive a sheet from each school showing (1) the median academic index (or test scores and undergraduate grades, if no index is used) of admitted and enrolled applicants, by race; (2) the median class rank of each racial or ethnic group whose identity is a factor in admissions; and (3) the pass rate of recent graduates from each group on the bar of the school's home state. Such an unbiased report would at least give the applicant an understanding of his or her chances of success.

Sander and his critics aside, thanks to institutionalized preference systems we really don't know what the impact of affirmative action has been on the average black student. The Supreme Court has built their affirmative action support around diversity -- not for its own sake, but because it yields educational benefits, such as "break[ing] down racial stereotypes, and 'enabl[ing] [students] to better understand persons of different races.'" If Sander is correct, the Supreme Court has officially ordained the principal that states can benefit white students (though having a diverse student body) at the expense of black students (by limiting their ability to become successful lawyers).
Centinel 2:07 PM # | |