Saturday, July 12, 2003

My forthcoming book, You Can't Say That! The Growing Threat to Civil Liberties from Antidiscrimination Laws, has debuted with an sales ranking of 2,523,674, which presumably means no one has ordered it yet. By preordering the book (only $14, hardcover), you can single-handedly move it into the six digits (I think; no one really knows how Amazon tabulates its rankings). The book will ship in October.

Update: Still no action on Amazon, but the book has been ordered from B & N.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Why would the Melbourne Underground Film Festival want to show a documentary by the anti-Semitic Holocaust denying liar David Irving? And why does the article I link to dignify him with the title "revisionist historian?" You might as well say that J.K. Rowling is a revisionist historian of wizardry.

While I was off galvanting in the Adirondacks, Ted Frank, guestblogging on, took on the anti-Daubert report I briefly discussed last week.

When business organizations try to get tort reform enacted at the federal level--appropriate in my view, given the incentives of elected state judges to screw out of state defendants to benefit in-state plaintiffs, so long as the reforms apply only to cases involving an out of state party--they are told that they are violated principles of federalism. Yet, when business organizations respond to their inability to get comprehensive federal tort reform by getting involved in state judicial elections, they accused of "buying" state judges. Apparently, businesses large and small, doctors, and others at the mercy of the current tort system are simply supposed to allow corrupt state judicial systems to confiscate their money at will.

There has been a great deal of discussion about H. L. Mencken's purported anti-Semitism, based on some critical comments he made about Jews in his diary. None of these comments, to my recollection, are as harsh as the just-discovered comments made by Harry Truman in his diary, as discussed in the Washington Post:

But the most surprising comments were Truman's remarks on Jews, written on July 21, 1947, after the president had a conversation with Henry Morgenthau, the Jewish former treasury secretary. Morgenthau called to talk about a Jewish ship in Palestine -- possibly the Exodus, the legendary ship carrying 4,500 Jewish refugees who were refused entry into Palestine by the British, then rulers of that land.

"He'd no business, whatever to call me," Truman wrote. "The Jews have no sense of proportion nor do they have any judgement [sic] on world affairs. Henry brought a thousand Jews to New York on a supposedly temporary basis and they stayed."

Truman then went into a rant about Jews: "The Jews, I find, are very, very selfish. They care not how many Estonians, Latvians, Finns, Poles, Yugoslavs or Greeks get murdered or mistreated as D[isplaced] P[ersons] as long as the Jews get special treatment. Yet when they have power, physical, financial or political neither Hitler nor Stalin has anything on them for cruelty or mistreatment to the under dog. Put an underdog on top and it makes no difference whether his name is Russian, Jewish, Negro, Management, Labor, Mormon, Baptist he goes haywire. I've found very, very few who remember their past condition when prosperity comes."

Comment: Truman was clearly venting some anger at the time, and Jewish "selfishness" certainly relates to anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jewish clannishness, etc. However, Truman's record (like Mencken's, who had many Jewish friends and advocated allowing German Jews into the U.S. in the 1930s) is far from anti-Semitic. He had a Jewish business partner, was sympathetic to Jewish refugees in Europe after the Holocaust, and was instrumental in the founding of the State of Israel.

Thus, the Truman diaries provide yet another example of the impoverishment of dialogue about racism, anti-Semitism, and the like, because of the loss of the word "prejudiced." In the old days, it was recognized that many people were prejudiced, having negative stereotypes and attitudes in their minds toward another group, but that those prejudices could be overcome in practice. Truman was apparently prejudiced to some degree against Jews. Mencken certainly was. But does that make them anti-Semites? In current dialogue, yes. Anyone who expresses prejudice is deemed an anti-Semite. In my view, however, the label anti-Semite should be limited to those who actually wish Jews harm, and/or actively try to harm Jews. Someone who has mere prejudices, but lives his life without relying on those prejudices should not be put in the same camp as, say, Nazis. Of course, a prejudiced person may allow those prejudices to affect his day to day life. But even then, the person who votes against having a Jew be a member of his golf club because of prejudice, but doesn't actually wish harm upon Jews is still hardly in the same camp as the Nazi.

Thus, with regard to both Truman and Mencken, we can say that they both were prejudiced against Jews, but their lives and careers showed they rarely acted on that prejudice. Doesn't that seem a lot more sensible then calling them "anti-Semites?"

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Eugene reports on an outrageous Nevada Supreme Court decision requiring the state legislature to suspend a state constitutional requirement of a 2/3 vote for raising taxes. While Eugene suggests impeachment, a more immediate response would be for the state's legislators to agree among themselves that no tax increase will come to a vote unless it's clear it has a 2/3 majority, to prevent the state supreme court from declaring an increase passed with lesser majority a law. And, if such an increase does pass with less than 2/3, the governor should veto it, and, if the veto is overriden (by less than 2/3?) refuse to enforce it, ordering state tax officials to ignore it and/or pardoning any violators.

I was thinking of writing a short article on Justice Rufus Peckham, most famously the author of Lochner v. New York. Then I remembered that someone told me that his law school classmate wrote a paper glorifying Peckham as one of the great Supreme Court Justices, much to the horror of their professor. If this rings a bell for any readers, please let me know.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Anti-Israel and, for that matter, anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists have long charged that Israel deliberately attacked a U.S. spy ship, the Liberty, during the Six Day War. Frankly, I was sometimes inclined to believe it myself, having heard rumors that the ship was passing on information about Israeli actions to the Egyptians, quite a perilous position for Israel if true (remember, at this time Israel and the U.S. were not nearly as close as they are today, and last time Egypt and Israel went to war, in 1956, the U.S. sided with the Egyptians). Anyway, Israel always denied that it knew the ship was American, and that story has now been proven conclusively to be true. You can read about the proof here.

Update: Some good links related to this story on the Little Green Footballs comments page.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

I've been on vacation at the beautiful Sagamore Hotel on Lake George, NY, and didn't have a chance to get to a computer. Blogging will resume tomorrow.