Saturday, June 14, 2003

This speaks for itself:

Leila Saleh, 55, who was sitting nearby with another patient, said her 2-year-old grandson wrapped a belt around his waist one day and played suicide bomber. "I said 'What's this?' and he said 'I want to blow myself up and kill the Jews.' "

Saleh said she was unfazed. "Listen, if it would be permitted to me, I would go myself," she said. "You only die once."

Friday, June 13, 2003

AP is still repeating the canard that Tuesday's suicide murder on a Jerusalem bus was in retaliation for the attempted assassination of Hamas leader Rantisi, accepting the whole "cycle of violence" shtick. Anyone who closely follows the new from Israel knows that before, during, and after the Aqaba summit there was an unprecedented level of terror alerts based on intelligence information, most of which fortunately were thwarted by Israel, and none of which had anything to do with Israel's attempt to knock off Rantisi, who by the way was at the time busy coordinating attacks with Islamic Jihad and Fatah.

If Hamas ultimately agrees to a ceasefire, the explicit purpose of which is to give Abbas time to strengthen his security forces sufficiently that he can later crush Hamas, what would the motive be? The only two optimisitic possibilities are that Hamas leaders are extremely stupid, which is unlikely to be the case, or that Hamas is ready to lay down its arms in favor of politics, which is doubtful. A darker possibility is that Hamas would agree to the ceasfire betting that it could make better use of the time--in terms of arming itself, recuperating from Israeli attacks, organizing its dreamed of "mega terror" attack--than Abbas can. If so, it would be crucial for the Saudis and others to cut off their funding to Hamas during any ceasefire.

Update: I've misplaced the link, but a high-level Saudi official was quoted today as acknowledging that his government still supports the families of suicide murderers--but only, you see, because the families are in need, not to encourage terrorism. How dumb do the Saudis think we are?

Thursday, June 12, 2003

A group called the Committe for Justice is trumpeting a poll purporting to show that almost 90% of Hispanics want Miguel Estrada to be cofirmed to the DC Circuit. James Taranto of Best of the Web trumpeted the poll today. But if you look at the actual poll, it's laughably biased in favor of Estrada. Basically, the pollsters asked a series of "questions" designed to make Estrada look great, and the nomination process unfair, without providing any of the Democrats' counter-arguments. If I was teaching a class on polling, this one would get an "F". Taranto is usually much too careful to fall for stuff like this.

Update: BTW, my personal opinion is that all nominated judges should get a reasonably prompt up or down vote from the full Senate. And while I can't say I've studied Estrada's record carefully, I haven't seen anything remotely resembling a strong case that he shouldn't be confirmed. On the other hand, as I've noted before, here and here Fifth Circuit nominee Pickering seems like a poor choice.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Reuters: "Washington blames Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda group for the Sept. 11 attacks that killed more than 3,000 people."

Blame? Hel-lo! Al Qaeda's leaders not only admit it, but actually brag about it. Implicitly questioning Al Qaeda's responsibility is a consistent piece of Reuters nonsense, and it almost makes you wonder if the writers there think 9/11 was a zionist plot.

I'll be in Israel soon, visiting my girlfriend's family. They want us to spend some of our time in Eilat a resort area in the southern desert, because it's "safe" there (no suicide murders, yet). The last time I visited Israel, in 1985, I went wherever I wanted to, didn't fear traveling on buses, etc. But, of course, that was before the "peace process."

Excellent article in Ha'aretz on who's to blame for the most recent wave of violence in the Land of Israel: Palestinian rejectionists are to blame for the violence, Sharon is to blame for political ineptitude in how he has responded to the violence, and the Bush Administration is to blame for its various missteps in handling the road map.

I read about this at the time, but seeing it again in print is still jarring: "In October 2001, only weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, the authorities in an Italian seaport discovered an Egyptian man suspected of Qaeda membership hiding in a shipping container bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia; airport maps and security passes were also found in the container, which he had outfitted with a bed and bathroom. The man disappeared while on bail." THEY LET THE GUY OUT ON BAIL!?!?!

Peggy Noonan: "And Mr. Bush is pushing a Mideast roadmap because he knows what all but children know: 9/11 grew from, was gestated in, the intense hatred of the Arab-Israeli conflict."

Actually, it seems safe to say that 9/11 grew from, and was gestated in: (1) the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, in which the U.S. allowed Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to funnel U.S. money primarily to anti-Western, antideluvian fundamentalist rebels, who, after defeating one great atheistic Satan, turned their attention to the other; (2) the first Gulf War, which led to the permanent stationing of American soldier infidels in holy Arabia; and (3) the feeble U.S. response to earlier provocations by radical Islamists, including everything from hostage-taking in Iran in 1979 to Khobar Towers. I've always thought one of Ronald Reagan's biggest mistakes was not responding to the release of the hostages on his inauguration day with a large volley of missles over downtown Tehran.
The Arab-Israeli conflict has now become a front and center issue to Moslems worldwide, but that is a relatively recent phenomenon of the Second Intifada. Before that, it seemed that the conflict was moving toward resolution (and would have gotten there but for Arafat) and there was no Al-Jazeera to demagogue it throughout the Arab world. Al-Qaeda itself paid very little attention to Israel in its public statements until very recently.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Good column by Daniel Pipes on the current Israel-Palestinian situation. The basic point is that the US must hold the Palestinians to their agreements, which successive Israeli governments did not do.

Monday, June 09, 2003

Michael Greve has an interesting piece in National Review Online about Republicans and the Supreme Court. Though I liked the article, as well as Randy Barnett's comment on it, as the unofficial self-proclaimed world's leading expert on Lochner v. New York and related matters, I can't resist correcting one statement in Michael's article. Michael wrote:

"Activist Supreme Courts — the Marshall Court, the Lochner Court, and the Warren-Brennan Court — have typically enacted the agenda of identifiable political constituencies and, usually, of a political party. The politics have varied: The Lochner Court curtailed the Democratic party's program, while the Brennan Court promoted it. But the identification was close in each case, which gave the activism charges of those eras their plausibility."

In fact, it's very hard to correlate the Lochner Court with any particular political party. The two most Lochnerian Justices, David Brewer and Rufus Peckham, were Republicans, as were three of the 'Four Horsemen' who dominated the Court from 1923-1933. However, Justice Holmes, the Court's leading anti-Lochnerian, was also a Republican appointee, and arch-Lochnerian Justice James McReynolds, who is largely responsible for modern substantive due process jurisprudence due to his opinion in Meyer v. Nebraska, was appointed by Democrat Woodrow Wilson. Republican Herbert Hoover's appointments--Cardozo, Stone, and Roberts--were very deferential to regulatory legislation. All nine Justices, including Democrat Louis Brandeis, voted to overturn the centerpiece of the first New Deal, the National Industrial Recovery Act. More generally, it was not at all clear until the New Deal era which party was more generally sympathetic to laissez-faire. Each party had a progressive wing, and each party also had a limited government wing. In 1924, the candidates for both parties were from the respective limited government wings, while in '32, both candidates were from their parties' progressive wings. The influence of the pro-laissez faire "[Grover] Cleveland Democrats" did not finally wane until the 1930s.

So, while it's true that the Lochner Court impeded the Democratic New Deal through both its federalism jurisprudence and its economic liberty jurisprudence, it would be very difficult to attribute this to a Republican/Democrat split, and more plausible to attribute it to an ideological split that transcended the party system.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

My latest academic paper, "Lochner's Feminist Legacy," is available at SSRN. It's a lengthy review of Julie Novkov's book, Constituting Workers, Protecting Women: Gender, Law and Labor in the Progressive Era and New Deal Years, and will appear soon in the Michigan Law Review.

Home sale prices have risen tremendously over the last few years, supposedly in response to reduced interest rates that make monthly payments more affordable. If true, I wonder if this is economically rational. If interest rates go down, that is because expectations of inflation have gone down. So, while you pay a lower nominal interest rate, over the long term the real interest rate may be exacly the same. It gets worse. The mortgage interest deduction may make higher interest rates better for home buyers. Let's say the real interest rate is 4%. Inflation is expected to be 1%, so the nominal interest rate is 5%. A buyer is in the 33% bracket, state and federal. The nominal interest rate goes down from 5% to approximate 3.33%, leave a real interest rate of 2.33%. On the other hand, let's say inflation is expected to be 5%, the real interest rate is 4%, and the nominal interest rate is therefore 9%. The same buyer gets a 3% income tax break, leaving a 6% nominal rate, and a 1% real rate. Now, I recognize that it's not quite that simple, because higher inflation rates imply (1) more volatility an (2) more out of control gov't, both of which will likely lead to a somewhat higher real interest rate. But still, the simplified example shows that lower rates aren't clearly in the interest of homebuyers. It should also go without saying that if interest rates are low, and that means inflation expectations are low, this also means that less of a buyer's debt will be inflated away, and the buyer will also get lower raises in a higher-inflation environment (update: not to mention lower nominal increases in home values). I suppose in the short run you still do better with lower nominal interest rates, because it's less money immediately out of your pocket. But if you hold a loan for 30 years....