Wednesday, 2 May 2007


I leave you this fine evening with a column about constitutional interpretation, which was the topic (and title) of my doctoral dissertation.


This New York Times story perplexes me. What does the expression “immigrant rights” mean? Are we talking about legal immigrants, i.e., those who have entered this country in accordance with its laws? If so, then they have the same rights you and I have—as citizens. Are we talking about illegal immigrants? If so, then they have no rights at all—other than those (such as due process) that are possessed by criminal suspects. Either the reporters for the Times are stupid, and don’t grasp the simple distinction between legal and illegal immigration, or they’re trying to manipulate their readers by blurring the distinction. Either way, it’s disgraceful.

The Imperial Presidency

Here is a column by Harvey Mansfield, who is an island of sanity in the sea of fanatics that is Harvard University.

Best of the Web Today


Richard John Neuhaus on Atheistic Arguments

Fun is frequently made of atheists who can’t stop talking about God. But, to be fair, these are people who believe that the vast majority of humankind is captive to an error that is the source of most of the world’s problems. And so, over the past three hundred years, we have the thousands of books, each one published in the confidence that it provides the final knock-down argument demonstrating that there is no God and that once this truth is recognized all belief and action premised upon the reality of God will cease and desist. There is, in a perverse way, something admirable in the persistence of these proponents of atheism. If someone is not convinced by the argument, it must be because they [sic] did not understand it, and so they go back and start over again from the beginning—usually in yet another book.

(Richard John Neuhaus, “The Public Square,” First Things [February 2007]: 55-72, at 69)


This comic cracks me up.

Hall of Fame?

Randy Johnson. (For an explanation of this feature, see here.)

An Open Letter to Robert W. Mong Jr

As the editor of The Dallas Morning News, you should care very much about your newspaper’s readership, if only because your job depends on it; so please take a few minutes to read—and think about—what this former reader of your newspaper has to say. It may help you right your sinking ship.

I began reading the DMN in August 1989, when, as a young professor, I moved to Grand Prairie from College Station. I was 32 years old then; I’m 50 now. I don’t expect to agree with everything I read in a newspaper, or even with most of it, but I do expect (not unreasonably) that the news stories will be fair and balanced. I have regrettably come to the conclusion that your newspaper is incapable of this. Let me give just one example (of many I could supply). Your coverage of illegal immigration is pure propaganda. Sometimes you conveniently omit the adjective “illegal,” as if there are people out there who oppose immigration per se. That is insulting. What we oppose is illegal immigration. Our concern is lawbreaking, not immigration. We want an orderly flow of immigrants. This means, at a minimum, securing the borders so that nobody—nobody—sneaks in. Those who are here illegally should be deported forthwith. I don’t expect you to share this view, but I expect your reporters and editors to take it seriously and treat it respectfully. Their job is not to make the world right; it is to get it right.

The DMN has experienced a 14.3% decline in circulation during the past six months, which is greater than that of any other newspaper. Do you see any correlation between this precipitous decline and the propaganda that you are publishing as news? Please don’t dismiss me as a right-wing crank. I do not object to editorializing. I learn from those who have different beliefs and values from mine. This was true when I was a progressive and it is true now that I’m a conservative. What I object to is editorializing in the guise of reportage. Sometimes I wonder whether your reporters and editors know the difference between these two modes of writing. In reportage, the reporter must be scrupulously impartial. All sides of the issue must be accurately and charitably represented. There should be no manipulative rhetoric. Why is this so difficult to grasp? Yes, there are biased umpires and biased judges out there, but they are few and far between, and when they are discovered, they are reprimanded. Biased reporters, sadly, have become the norm. I see biased reportage every day in The New York Times, which I read online. I never dreamed I would see it in the DMN. What happened to your commitment to journalistic integrity? What happened to your professionalism?

I wish it hadn’t come to this, but I have canceled my subscription to the DMN after nearly 18 years and gone over to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Maybe I’ll discover that the Star-Telegram is no better than the DMN with respect to its reportage, but it can’t be worse. If it is worse, I’ll find another source for my news. I will never go back to the DMN, even online. Good luck with your newspaper. With the agenda-driven reporters and editors you have, you will need it.


Keith Burgess-Jackson, J.D., Ph.D.

Addendum: Here is the letter I received from Robert Mong:

Dear Dr. Burgess-Jackson: Thank you for writing and for reading us for so long. I certainly hope you will reconsider your decision to stop subscribing to the paper. I agree with you that the words we choose in our news stories are incredibly important in presenting highly-charged topics in straightforward and unbiased ways. We have on occasion used words such as “anti-immigrant” or some such that are not precise. It is our job as editors to be very vigilant and make sure the multiple points of view in sensitive topics are given fair and full visibility. We don’t make any claims of infallibility, but we generally follow our tough and strict guidelines for fairness. I like to look at the case of Stephanie Sandoval, one of our reporters covering the Farmers Branch debate. I have heard from all official sides as this story has unfolded, and everyone has praised her fairness and accuracy. Sincerely, Bob Mong, TDMN editor

I appreciate the reply, but it doesn’t alter my decision to cancel my subscription. Talk, as they say, is cheap. To prevent others from canceling their subscriptions, the DMN is going to have to shake up its reportorial and editorial staffs. I believe the current reporters and editors are too biased to cover the issue of illegal immigration fairly. To be honest, I don’t understand why there’s even an issue. We’re talking about breaking the law. That the lawbreaking involves immigration, as opposed, say, to killing someone, raping, or stealing, is neither here nor there. Since when is breaking the law not to be punished?

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Why Congress Should Embrace the Surge,” by Owen West (Op-Ed, May 1), suggests that Congress and the American public should trust those who started and executed this war with 10 more years to “win.” This misses the forest (a wrong war) for some trees (how to win).

Many Americans now see that the war in Iraq was based on lies and deceptions, misunderstanding of the task, and narrow ideologies of a few in power.

We see that it had nothing to do with terrorism, that it has destabilized the Middle East and increased the terrorist threat, ruined America’s moral authority in the world, cost the world tens of thousands of lives, and that four years and hundreds of billions of dollars later, the United States clearly has not had a coherent strategy to “win the peace.”

We don’t know the best course out of this quagmire, but we know an unnecessary disaster when we see one.

So we have asked for change. We hope that these new leaders will find a solution.

Erec Stebbins
New York, May 1, 2007

Note from KBJ: I have yet to hear a persuasive argument that President Bush lied about the war in Iraq (or anything else, for that matter). For the umpteenth time, a lie is a falsehood told with intent to deceive. Therefore, President Bush lied if and only if:

1. He uttered a statement that, at the time he uttered it, he believed to be false; and

2. His intention, at the time he uttered the statement, was to deceive someone.

If President Bush lied, it should be easy to supply evidence for each of these conditions. Please, Erec Stebbins, tell us which statement President Bush believed to be false at the time he uttered it, and supply your evidence for this belief; then supply evidence that he uttered the statement with the intention to deceive. If you can’t do all of this, then you should stop saying that President Bush lied. How would you like it if someone accused you of lying but could not provide evidence for it?

A Year Ago