The Locker Room

September 28, 2004

Great Scott!

Posted by Andrew Cline at 7:37 PM

Tornado at Doc Brown's house!

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More on English-language subtleties

Posted by John Hood at 4:32 PM

Duke professor Bruce Lawrence’s oddball assertion that Bush “lied” because he said the thugs in Iraq were “insurgents,” even though they are really Iraqis, wouldn’t sell even to the French and The New York Times, judging by this report in today’s IHT:

WASHINGTON — France said Monday that it would take part in a proposed international conference on Iraq only if the agenda included a possible U.S. troop withdrawal, thus complicating the planning for a meeting that has drawn mixed reactions.

Paris also wants representatives of Iraq's insurgent groups to be invited to a conference in October or November, a call that would seem difficult for the Bush administration to accept.

Iraq’s insurgent groups? What, are the Times (via IHT) and the French now part of Bush’s rhetorical conspiracy to mislead America?

By the way, the proposal from Paris is ludicrous.

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Not-at-all unique reaction to Bowles-Burr

Posted by John Hood at 3:26 PM

I had this thought last night, after watching the Erskine Bowles v. Richard Burr debate, though I did not work it into my reaction column.

Having talked to several reporters and political nuts today, I find I am not alone. Like several of them, I heard the debate first on the radio and then watched it later on tape. The effect was strikingly similar, for me and others, to the famous 1960 presidential debate between Richard Nixon and Jack Kennedy. It is said that folks listening to that debate thought Nixon sounded more confident and informed, that he won on points, but that those watching the debate on TV thought Kennedy looked more comfortable and presidential (and better-shaven, to be superficial about it) and won more votes.

Some say that story is misleading, but I think something similar happened last night. Bowles sounded better than he looked, and Burr looked better than he sounded. I'm not being superficial here; it isn't a beauty contest. Burr looked more confident, more self-assured, and more comfortable. He smiled, he looked directly into the camera to talk to voters. Bowles looked uncomfortable, arms flailing, talking to a studio audience (who cares?) without exuding warmth. Both seemed nervous on the videotape, but Burr recovered and Bowles never fully did.

Like it or not, body language and visual cues play a role in how human beings communicate. Burr is better at it, though that doesn’t necessarily speak to an ability to govern.

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The George Leef stereotype

Posted by Andrew Cline at 12:47 AM

After I did this piece on left-wing stereotypes of conservatives for The American Spectator, it occurred to me that when liberals form a mental picture of conservatives, they are picturing George.

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Re: Mastering the subleties of language

Posted by Jeff A. Taylor at 12:43 AM

I'm gonna hafta assume that Prof. Lawrence simply misspoke and actually meant infiltrators and not insurgents. (Even though Iraq has had some infils too.)

Otherwise he sounds completely unhinged. Here's that noted mouthpiece of the White House, the Guardian on violence in Iraq:

"Insurgents also fired mortar bombs at a police academy in eastern Baghdad today, but there were no reports of any casualties. ...

... Militants waging an insurgency against Iraq's US-backed interim government have launched many attacks against Iraq's fledgling security forces in a bid to destabilise the country ahead of elections scheduled for January."

Perfectly descriptive of events it seems to me. And this CNN report uses insurgent and quotes a Coalition release which uses the "anti-Iraqi forces" tag that the U.S. military prefers.

Perhaps a thought experiment will clear this up. I could reasonably be termed a dissident in that I dissent from several, OK lots of, policies undertaken by my government. I think the invasion of Iraq was a bad idea and I want the FCC abolished by 12-noon tomorrow, for example.

But I have not taken up arms against the government or seek to overthrow it. I am not an insurgent in the field committing acts of violence against public order.

But were I to do such things, the existing government would be perfectly justified in describing me as representing "anti-American forces" as I would be warring against the established government of the Republic.

Would Prof. Lawrence think otherwise? More to the point, does dissident accurately describe Tim McVeigh?

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Re: Click and read the *yawwwwn* hilarity

Posted by Jon Sanders at 11:59 AM

Paul: Don't overlook the photos in your story that show the super-hip yellow "Livestrong" bracelet the candidate's sporting.

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Click and Read the Hilarity

Posted by Paul Chesser at 11:01 AM

The Associated Press is really impressed with John Kerry's increased usage of humor on the campaign trail.

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Eve Ensler insults thousands of people

Posted by Jon Sanders at 10:15 AM

She's chosen her theme for 2005: "Vagina Warriors Lead the Way" (per the latest "V-Mail").

What, pray tell is a "Vagina Warrior"? (Please resist the urge to make one of the numerous, obvious jokes about presidential candidates and erstwhile U.S. allies.)

Well, it's "someone who has suffered or witnessed violence, grieved it, transformed it, and then done extraordinary work to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else in their community — councilors, DA.s, police officers, therapists, philanthropists, volunteers."

I daresay they do all that out of concern for their fellow human beings, not out of concern for any one body part. I wonder how they'd react to being called "Vagina Warriors." Ensler's bizarre vagina fixation is making a travesty out of her cause.

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the trouble with law school

Posted by George Leef at 10:10 AM

In this NRO article David Frum, a Harvard Law School graduate, discusses two recent plagiarism cases there which have embarrassed the (very liberal) perpetrators.

In the course of his discussion, Frum wonders about the benefit of "prestige" law schools, but I don't think he carries that line of thinking far enough. Law schools do not prepare people to be lawyers. You would be just as foolish to hire a new graduate of Harvard or any other law school to, say, defend you against an IRS tax prosecution as you would be to hire a new graduate of an engineering program to build a bridge. People learn virtually everything they need to know about lawyering, engineering, or any other occupation, on the job. All that law school and similar "professional" training programs do is to help the existing professionals identify which kids they want to bring in.

A century ago, most lawyers did not go to law school, but rather joined up with firms as apprentices, just as Clarence Darrow did. My conclusion is that formal education programs are certainly not the only and probably not the best way for people to learn what they need to know in order to do some job well. Alas, we're caught in a credential spiral where it's becoming obligatory to go through some type of formal education in order to get the piece of paper you need to get into the real training.

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A timely reminder about government

Posted by John Hood at 09:53 AM

I don’t want this post to be misunderstood. Everyone should pay his or her taxes because 1) it is the law, 2) it is only fair (shared pain and all that), and 3) sometimes governments do contribute value to the social order.

But the next time you get into debates about what government is, and your antagonist tries to deny the fundamentally coercive nature of the institution, here’s an appropriate rejoinder. Try not paying your taxes and see what happens. The response will, eventually, be quite forceful.

Thus, only entrust government with tasks that you believe can and should be carried out at the point of a gun. That’s what government is. Elections don’t define the institution — Rotary clubs and floral societies have elections. What they don’t have is the power to tax, regulate, mandate, imprison, and shoot first.

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No Profit to Whom?

Posted by Paul Chesser at 09:50 AM

Look how easy it is for someone who is politically connected, to either party, to set up a nonprofit organization and channel money for his or her own interests.

But we already know about that, don't we?

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The Bush Pods

Posted by Paul Chesser at 09:35 AM

Here's the Washington Post's analysis of the latest presidential election poll:

Bush's relentless attacks on Kerry have badly damaged the Democratic nominee, the survey and interviews showed. Voters routinely describe Kerry as wishy-washy, as a flip-flopper and as a candidate they are not sure they can trust, almost as if they are reading from Bush campaign ad scripts. But Kerry's problems are also partly of his own making.

Yes, the mainstream media continues to believe that Bush's support comes from human-like creatures who have emerged from pods and mindlessly follow their leader, while Kerry can't possibly bear full responsibility for those who don't understand his message.

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Amendment One Battle Gets Funny, Sort Of

Posted by Donna Martinez at 09:35 AM

Yesterday's Chapel Hill Herald contains the October installment of the monthly advertising supplement called "Business Today." Content is provided by the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Chamber of Commerce. The cover proclaims "Vote Yes on Amendment One," while the tease tells readers: "INSIDE: NC Secretary of Commerce Jim Fain explains benefits of self-financed bonds." No surprise here that the pro A-1 effort continues to try and hide what the amendment is really about: tax increment financing.

But it was the page 2 note from the section's editor, Laura Zavelson, that had me rolling. Here's part of what she tells her readers:

"And while this entire section is entirely pro Amendment One, I encourage you to go online - perhaps to your local news site - and see what opponents have to say too. Then decide for yourself. You owe it to yourself and your community to make an informed decision not only on this issue, but also on every line item on the ballot. Make sure you understand your choices on Election Day and above all, make sure your voice is heard."

Great advice, but evidently Ms. Zavelson doesn't know, or chose not to tell her readers, that the main pro-Amendment One advocacy group, North Carolinians for Jobs and Progress, registered seven web site addresses that are clearly ANTI-Amendment One names. Visitors to these sites are greeted with a PRO-Amendment One message. That's hardly an effort to encourage an informed vote.

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We've Funded Junk, But What the Hell, Let's Fund More

Posted by Paul Chesser at 08:58 AM

The News & Observer of Raleigh looks again at projects that Golden LEAF has funded (and may soon be funding), and the article includes this astonishing admission from a board member, Frank Holding:

Meeting at a hotel near Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Sept. 2, Michael Almond urged (fellow) members of the Golden LEAF board to turn down MS Mega. "Our money is all at risk, and basically it's not being matched with skin in the game by the owner of the company," said Almond, who is president of the Charlotte Regional Partnership, an economic development organization.

But Frank Holding, executive vice chairman and director of First Citizens Bank, pointed out that Golden LEAF had given money before to projects that didn't amount to much....Golden LEAF's 15-member board sided with Holding, voting overwhelmingly to give Jones County the money.

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Mastering the subleties of language

Posted by John Hood at 08:11 AM

I thought Locker Room readers might enjoy this telling little story about the nature of political debate on campus.

Last week, I visited UNC-Chapel Hill to speak to a class studying the use of blogging and the Internet to build communities, including political ones. Naturally, I gave them the full spread on the various branches of the JLF’s web family, including Carolina Journal Online, the main JLF site, the Locker Room, the JLF-Charlotte page, our special sites devoted to education and local government, our NC at War site, and the affiliated site for the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

The students were impressed, by the way, and had great questions. Prompted a lot of thinking on my part, too.

But the story involves the walk to the class. As my host, the very cool Paul Jones, led the way, we encountered two professors walking the other way. Paul introduced them — Carl Enst of UNC-CH and Bruce Lawrence of Duke — as two of the nation’s leading scholars of Arabic and Islam. I was glad to meet them, at first, but then Lawrence immediately — and I mean with scant cordiality or introduction — launched into a tirade about how President Bush was a liar. Case in point, he offered, was that Bush claimed the attacks on U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq was the work of “insurgents” but it was really the work of “dissidents.” That is, this esteemed professor lectured that the word “insurgent” means foreign fighters and people from outside Iraq, while the resistance was really being waged by Iraqis who dislike the coalition presence, hate the U.S., etc. Thus Bush was a liar.

Not having the time or inclination to debate this, I simply informed him that his definitions weren’t correct. An insurgency certainly can be generated from within, indeed the term usually connotes a domestic insurgency rather than infiltration from elsewhere, I said. And the term “dissidents” doesn’t really work to describe terrorist bombers, for what should be obvious reasons — it fails to distinguish peaceful protests from blowing up children on a bus.

"You don’t know what you’re talking about,” the excitable fellow retorted. ”I’ve been talking to three Marines who served there, and they tell me it is the work of dissidents, not insurgents from outside.”

“Consult a dictionary,” I said, losing my good humor and starting to get annoyed. What a silly argument. And this was a respected scholar?

“I speak several languages,” Lawrence snootily replied. He then began to say that I should pay more attention to “Tom” Hobbes than John Locke, as if he was chatting about his cousin, which in philosophical terms may well be true.

Paul and I walked away. The prof was still sputtering. I regretted later that I didn’t close with, “You’d be better off if one of the languages you had mastered was English.”

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