kurt's nightmare

Generally, I post once a week. Topics are randomly selected and depend mostly upon whether it's baseball season or not. Other topics will include sex, politics, old girlfriends, music, and whatever else pops into my little brain. If you'd like to read, or ignore, my blog about China: http://meidabizi.blogspot.com/

Location: Dayton, OH, Heard & McDonald Islands

I'm an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dayton. I represent no one but myself, and barely do that. I'm here mostly by accident.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Should W. be worried?

Our President and maximum leader may be a bit worried over the holiday season. He clearly has a few opponents, ideological, strategic, military, etc., to worry about. But if his supporters sound like Charles Krauthammer, then he may be in real trouble.

Krauthammer has gotten a lot of publicity for his recent column, suggesting that the mere mention of "impeachment" of the current Prez is simply nonsense.

Here is a link to Krauthammer's text.

One might gloss his sophisticated and deeply-informed argument as follows (to make it easier to follow, I'll label the premises and conclusion):

  • Premise(s): I don't like impeachment.
  • Conclusion: Anyone who disagrees with me is a moron.
I know I find this convincing.

But others might not, so to persuade them I thought it might be worthwhile to take ten minutes to clarify his argument, so we can get back to the business at hand, whatever that may be.

Charlie is not only a trained psychotherapist, but an award-winning journalist, so he knows not to bury the lead. Hence, he starts with this argument:

Does the president have the constitutional authority to conduct warrantless searches against suspected foreign agents in the United States? George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr (one critic calls him the man who "literally wrote the book on government seizure of electronic evidence'') finds "pretty decent arguments'' on both sides but his own conclusion is that Bush's actions were "probably constitutional.''

So Professor Kerr comes out and says that there are "pretty decent" argument on both sides, but concludes that Bush's actions were "probably constitutional." A carping cynic might rewrite this as saying this:

Professor Kerr suggests there are arguments on both sides, including decent arguments indicating that Bush's actions might well be unconstitutional.
That, of course, is equivalent to Charlie's own version, but those who adopt this reading are sputtering nonsense. Odd that if claim x is nonsense, and is equivalent to claim y, that somehow y isn't nonsense.

Update (12.28.05): It turns out that Charlie didn't even get Professor Kerr right;
as Kerr writes of those who invoke his name as did Krauthammer,

I believe Charles Krauthammer may have had the same misunderstanding, so maybe it's a widespread misconception.
End of Update

But while this no doubt constitutes a knockdown argument, Charlie isn't done.

Some even suggest that Bush has thereby so trampled the Constitution that impeachment should now be considered. (Barbara Boxer, Jonathan Alter, John Dean and various luminaries of the left have already begun floating the idea.) The braying herds have already concluded, Tenet-like, that the president's actions were slam-dunk illegal.

Another excellent point. We begin with the classic strategy, identifying with a broad brush the "left," which apparently includes anyone who mentions the word "impeachment" (or, presumably, implies it). Now the left includes not just raving Marxists like Dean, but a more expansive set of fifth-columnists, seeking to impose state control over private property, such as Jonathan Turley (a colleague of Professor Kerr), Bruce Fein (from the Reagan administration), and notorious leftist George Will. Indeed, on Charlie's taxonomy, someone suggesting that W. does not have the power to determine what is and what is not unconstitutional becomes a "luminary of the left." In short, the Cato Institute has been exposed as a hotbed of Leninists, I guess. And if one dare suggest that the judicial or legislative branch has a role in government, that person becomes a member of the "braying herds." To make things worse, they think like George Tenet.

Here's another leftist, Paul Craig Roberts: the John M. Olin fellow at the Institute for Political Economy, a research fellow at the Independent Institute, and senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution (all subversive hotbeds):

The Bush administration justifies torture and threatens to veto congressional attempts to restrain its use. The Bush administration justifies indefinite detention of American citizens without charges. It asserts the power of indefinite detention based on its subjective judgment about who is a threat. An American government that preaches “freedom and democracy” to the world claims the powers of tyrants as its own.

Americans need to wake up. The only danger to Americans in Iraq is the one Bush created by invading the country. The grave threat that Americans face is the Bush administration’s police state mentality.
He's also not a big fan of warrantless surveillance of American citizens.

It might be worth noting that no one has actually said impeachment is a "slam dunk," but many have pointed out that a possible violation the U.S. Constitution might be sufficient cause for wondering if such an act qualifies as a high crime or misdemeanor. Yet Charlie is happy to move from "person S mentions impeachment" to "person S considers Bush's acts unquestionably illegal."

One other claim of Krauthammer's is worth considering:

Contrary to the administration, I also believe that as a matter of political prudence and comity with Congress, Bush should have tried to get the law changed rather than circumvent it. This was an error of political judgment. But that does not make it a crime. And only the most brazen and reckless partisan could pretend it is anything approaching a high crime and misdemeanor.

Here is another excellent point. My dictionary characterizes "circumvent" as "deceive, outwit, overreach, find a way round, evade."

As Charlie indicates, W. did "circumvent" the law. To suggest that the sitting President "evading" the law would be a crime is, unquestionably, a bizarre inference, and to suggest that circumventing the law is to break the law (e.g., to commit a high crime or misdemeanor) requires the semantic bufoonery employed only by a "brazen and reckless partisan."

On Krauthammer's own reading, Bush circumvented the law, and others have said that if Bush violated the Constitution, that such an act raises the possibility of having committed an impeachable offense (to be sure, this does make the extremely imaginative assumption that violating the Constitution qualifies as an impeachable offense).

Here's a nice link to a piece indicating why W. might have decided to, uh, "circumvent" the law; evidently that nasty little FISA court wasn't sufficiently compliant with the Administration's requests.

There is more to be said about these arguments of Krauthammer's, but I will end with two points.

First, if this is the best defense Bush supporters can provide, Bush should be very worried.

Second, if one chooses to take Krauthammer seriously here, one might consider his views of impeachment relative to Clinton.

If it can be shown -- as any sentient person must believe -- that he did [lie in the Monica Lewinsky case], nothing else matters. His presidency is over.

My guess is, however, that he will never resign. He'd be $3 million in debt, humiliated, powerless, indeed homeless. This gambler did not even leave himself a San Clemente to fly home to. And impeachment over one count of perjury will likely not even be attempted.

No. He'll try to stay in office no matter how many party elders beg him to leave. He'll be a dead man walking, an object of ridicule, an Oval Office O.J., denying what everyone knows he did.

You might contrast this prognostication with the remarks of Dan Froomkin, who writes for the (Communist) Washington Post and blogs:

More than four in 10 Americans, according to a recent Zogby [Communist] poll, say that if President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should consider holding him accountable through impeachment.

But you wouldn't know it from following the news. Only three mainstream outlets that I can find made even cursory mention of the poll last week when it came out.

You also wouldn't know it judging from the political discourse in Washington, but that makes a little more sense. After all, impeachment is for all practical purposes a political act, not a legal one. So with a Republican-controlled Congress that doesn't even like to perform basic White House oversight, it's basically a moot point.

Nevertheless, could there be anything that 42 percent of Americans agree on that the media care about so little?

Froomkin notes that within days of the Monica Lewinsky details becoming public, impeachment was part of the standard set of polling questions. Yet only Zogby seems even to be asking the question about impeaching a President who lied about going to war.

Now that Bush has admitted in public to wiretapping American citizens without a warrant, one might think this polling question could become a bit more prevalent. Might. (And I'm happy to suggest that I have serious doubts about whether lying to get us into a war constitutes an impeachable offense. Warrantless searches is a different story.)

I must be a moron--and clearly in need of some sweet sweet Krauthammer psychotherapy--to wonder why we can't consider the notion of impeaching this President for not only having possibly broken the law (and thus having violated his oath of office), but having announced it in public and having reaffirmed his intention to continue to do so.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The "I" Word?

I have problems, sometimes, following the logic of our maximum leader. I'm told we don't permit torture, yet we can't pass a law prohibiting torture (evidently we need to allow the CIA the ability to do something it isn't supposed to have the ability to do). I'm told that because there hasn't been a terrorist attack on the US since 9.11, that the administration's strategy is successful (this may be correct, but may also simply be a post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy). But the current argument--some say "kerfluffle," others see it as a bit more serious--about the domestic role of the NSA seems to require some attention. It is, of course, getting it, but I get to take my shot at it, as well.

This seems to be the argument:

1) The US is in a war (the Global War on Terror)
2) The Congress passed a resolution providing the President the right to use all force necessary and appropriate to fight terrorism.


3) The President can do whatever he wishes to.

In terms of the logic of this argument, I think it is clear that the sticking point is 2), in that 3) only (or at best) follows from 1) and 2) on a specific interpretation of both; the claim in 1) is so amorphous and, ultimately, dubious that 2) has to carry the weight of the argument.

The difficulty is that what 2) means is almost certainly going to be settled politically, not in a court, because the only way a court could get to interpret it is for someone to challenge the right of the President to bypass the FISA court to order wiretaps; thus for someone to possess the appropriate "standing" to challenge this action of the President is to know that he or she had been wiretapped. It is, as they like to say in this White House, almost a "slam dunk" that no one is going to know this, thus no one will have the standing to bring a case.

Here's one interpretation, cited in the New York Times of 12.17 (p. A18); it is that of John C. Yoo's memorandum of 09.25.01: as cited there,

no statute passed by Congress 'can place any limits on the president's determination as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing and nature of the response.'

The whole memorandum is given here; the above quotation is from the concluding summary.

That's quite a claim. Let's say that Bush loses his mind, and decides that the real terrorist threat is red-haired US citizens who have bought blenders in the last six months. He orders the Justice Department to start compiling lists of these people, who are then arrested, denied access to legal representation, detained for awhile, tried before a military tribunal and then executed. John C. Yoo seems to think that Congress couldn't offer legislation to prevent this; and, evidently, an independent judicial branch has no role to play here.

[If we throw in the FBI, the DoJ, and Lord-Knows-What-the-NSA-is-doing, the current administration has identifed others as potential threats worthy of investigation, such as the Quaker House of Fayetteville, NC, the Campus Anti-War Network, and the Des Moines Catholic Worker, among many others. Bush claims the NSA is only monitoring intercontinental traffic but, to be honest, I don't really trust him to tell the truth. More on domestic surveillance here.]

Sandra Day O'Connor--wild-eyed anarchist that she is--offered a different interpretation in her majority opinion in the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi:
We have long since made it clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens. . . . Whatever powers the U.S. Constitution envisions for the executive (branch) ... it most assuredly envisions a role for all three branches when individual liberties are at stake.
But this brings us premise 1) above, which also returns me to the difficulty of following Bush's logic. Now the argument seems to be this (as was helpfully pointed out in the rare news conference Bush held on Monday (12.19)):

a) The President has expansive powers during a state of war
b) The GWOT is a state of war
c) The GWOT may last indefinitely, and almost certainly past the lifetime of anyone reading this


d) The President has expansive powers for an indefinitely-defined future, which may well be quite a long time.

This may be the reason people like Sununu and other conservative Republicans were worried about Bush's position on wiretapping, and more generally about his claim of inherent powers that cannot be checked by Congress or the Judicial branch: because it is possible that the Republicans won't hold the White House forever. Do conservatives really want to establish a precedent that gives this kind of power to, say, John Kerry, or Hilary Clinton, or Russell Feingold? And if one isn't so cynical, the argument is even easier: the Executive branch of government is not first among equals, and is not a dictatorship or monarchy. The tradition of American democracy cannot possibly tolerate a President who acts as if he (or she) is not subject to the constraints imposed by the other branches.

Which is why the "I" word--impeachment--is starting to be thrown around. This is going on a bit long, but let's review the articles of impeachment for Clinton. In brief, they were
The president provided perjurious, false and misleading testimony to the grand jury regarding the Paula Jones case and his relationship with Monica Lewinsky; The president provided perjurious, false and misleading testimony in the Jones case in his answers to written questions and in his deposition; The president obstructed justice in an effort to delay, impede, cover up and conceal the existence of evidence related to the Jones case; The president misused and abused his office by making perjurious, false and misleading statements to Congress.

The whole text (and history) is available here, but the gist is that Clinton, when deposed, lied to a Grand Jury and to Congress about his sex life, and tried to prevent Congress from discovering that. While immaterial, it might be worth pointing out that the actual case for which Clinton was deposed was thrown out as without merit.

This, as was mentioned at the time, debased our political culture and trivialized the notion of impeachment. Johnson was impeached for almost purely political reasons, growing out of a conflict that was clearly the biggest threat to the notion of a "United" states this country ever confronted. Nixon was threatened with impeachment for abuse of power and using various governmental agencies to harrass and punish his enemies. The right doesn't like to admit it, and gets on its ideological high horse when Clinton's impeachment is described this way, but fundamentally he was impeached for lying about blow jobs. If one wishes to mount this particular horse, however, I think we have to stay in the saddle, for if lying before a Grand Jury is sufficient reason to impeach a President (and vote for guilt), then what does one do when confronted with what Bush has done: declared himself not subject to constraints imposed by Congress or the Judiciary, and able to do whatever he wishes that falls within the law, where "law" now is determined by his own Department of Justice?

How am I to take seriously someone who suggests that Clinton should have been found guilty and removed from office, and simultaneously suggests that Bush is not guilty of an impeachable offense when he declares his actions require no justification or legal scrutiny beyond that provided by the executive branch, and are thus without check?

It is not me, and not just the crazed opponents of Bush, who are throwing around the "I" word, by the way. Jonathan Turly (a law professor at George Washington University and a specialist in surveillance law), a frequent talking head during the impeachment hearings of Clinton and no particular friend of that administration, says this:
The president's dead wrong. It's not a close question. Federal law is clear. . . . When the president admits that he violated federal law, that raises serious constitutional questions of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Then there is Bruce Fein--also a frequent talking head during the Clinton impeachment, and, as he admits, one with a long record of arguing for a strong Presidency--who served as associate deputy attorney general for Reagan, saying this:
President Bush presents a clear and present danger to the rule of law. He cannot be trusted to conduct the war against global terrorism with a decent respect for civil liberties and checks against executive abuses. Congress should swiftly enact a code that would require Mr. Bush to obtain legislative consent for every counterterrorism measure that would materially impair individual freedoms.

Fein added on the radio interview I heard Sunday that if such a "code" is not successful, impeachment is warranted.

I don't think it will happen, as much because of the fiasco that was the Clinton impeachment, as the fact that we have bigger things to worry about (at least in the short term).

I must admit, as well, that it takes chutzpah not only to have done what Bush did with his executive order, repeatedly updated, but to announce publically (and often) that he had done so. For on many interpretations (albeit not that of Alberto Gonzales), he is proclaiming that he broke the law which he is sworn to faithfully execute.

Maybe he thought he was supposed to execute the law as he did Karla Faye Tucker, as in do away with?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Thank you Jesus; come again!

Some of my best friends are Christians. I'd let my sister marry one. (In fact, my sister is one, of the rather right-wing Evangelical kind. So is my brother, for that matter, although he is more of a mainstream Methodist.)

Sadly, some of my best friends are also Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, and god (God?) knows what else; at least one seems to be disturbingly devoted to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Making things more complicated is that some of the Christians I know are--yikes!--liberals. They have actually stated controversial things, such as being in favor of peace, being against racism, sexism, homophobia; they have even (probably when drunk) spoken of the "preferential option for the poor."

I think it is clear that during a time when West Africa is wracked by civil wars, tens of millions of people are in imminent jeopardy of dying of AIDS, there is the threat of a pandemic flu, where children die of starvation in a world where there is enough to feed them, where the ecosystem is being degraded at an alarming--and perhaps irreversible--rate, where species go extinct for no obviously good reason, where American politicians debate the meaning of "torture" and whether it should be permitted, where women are killed for having sex outside of marriage (as in being raped by relatives, which is not exactly "cruising"), and a couple of other problems, that we have a fundamental problem:

Commercial ventures aren't using the word "Christmas" with sufficient frequency in ads and store greetings.

When I read the Bible, particularly the Christian "New Testament" (a.k.a. "The Sequel"), it becomes more and more obvious that this is the fundamental Christian kerygma. Luke, John, Mark, Matthew, Paul, Peter, and Christ himself obviously think that the way to salvation fundamentally rests on forcing marketers to use the word "Christmas."

My own spiritual mentor, Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association, has specifically identified (one might say "targeted") Target, as a culprit in this war on all things Christian.
Target refuses to use the word "Christmas" in any of their corporate advertising. Their latest 36-page ad insert did use the phrase "holiday" 31 times.

I must admit that the image of someone sitting down and doing this statistical analysis of Target's ads is a bit amusing. Would it have been better had they only used "holiday" 30 times? Should they use "Christmas" an equal or greater number of times than "holiday"? Would they object to an ad that said "Jesus would shop at Circuit City"? What would their reaction be if one updated an old strategy, showed a long-haired bearded man and an empty cross, and the ad copy read "Buy at K-Mart or we will crucify this guy"? They might think it in bad taste, I suppose. But my own view is that the very issue of "taste" is long gone when one attempts, through boycotts (and a rather concerted campaign headed by Bill O'Reilly) to force people to say "Merry Christmas."

Target, Sears, K-Mart, Circuit City, Lowe's, Nordstrom's--and others--have all been targeted for having "banned" the word "Christmas" from store ad copy or as something to be said by employees. Personally, I tend to distinguish between "not including" and "banning," but that's a picky point. If I'm a manager at Lowe's, and someone asks me where the pink aluminum Christmas trees are (a deeply spiritual way of using a pagan ritualistic symbol to commemorate the birth of the Savior), I think I'm probably not going to reprimand that customer by saying "Huh? All we have are 'holiday' trees." On the other hand, if I have some guy show up at my cash register wearing a yarmulke and a t-shirt with Ariel Sharon's picture on it buying duct tape, I might not wish him a Merry Christmas.

I don't think multi-national corporations really have much to do with the genuine "meaning" of Christmas, and I would think devout Christians would find it a bit embarrassing to see some knucklehead writing petitions saying "You use the word 'Christmas' or we will boycott your store."

What exactly does forcing someone to mouth empty platitudes, so folks will buy your toasters, have to do with the redeeming power of the Savior's blood to expiate the sins of humanity?

The same point holds for public schools, of course: kids who are forced to pray, or say "Under God," or sing Christian Christmas carols, may not be getting the point of the message of Christ. Rather, by repeated inculcation they are somehow, I guess, going to receive salvation. But wouldn't Christians prefer that people came to the message voluntarily (not to mention the non-Christian parents--and, yes, there are a few out there--who don't want their kids singing about Jesus and worry [as did the Founding Fathers] about the tyranny of the majority)?

A rabbi I know once told me--and I've subsequently heard this view from a number of other people, theistic and not--that he thought religion was far too important to let government, schools, or corporations have anything to do with it.

My reader(s?) will be glad to know that most of these businesses have knuckled under. The Lord's message is saved, by Sears et al. putting "Christmas" back in ad copy, Lowe's referring to "Christmas trees," and other deeply pious responses to the message of Christ.

Others, on the other hand, have suggested that anyone who thinks buying shit has much to do with Christmas doesn't really get the point; for example, this guy refers to materialism as "spiritual pollution." I wonder if Donald Wildmon would start a petition saying that this message, as a direct attack on the real GDP of the US, is a profoundly anti-Christian view?

My favorite thing Wildmon suggests, by the way, is writing letters to heads of corporations to complain about their lack of piety (assuming that forcing the use of "Christmas" constitutes piety). I was thinking about how dim one is who writes the following letter:

Dear Mr. Abdullah Mohammed:

How come you hate Christmas? etc..

I'm out of here, off to go shop at stores that don't pretend that their profits have much to do with prophets, and that the path to the Kingdom of Heaven may really not be obstructed by whether one shops at a store run by Christians, or Jews or Muslims (who might not really promote Christmas, the goddamn heathens), and not at a store that refuses to let its workers join a union or doesn't pay a living wage.

Where would Jesus shop?

Friday, December 02, 2005

I am envious of Ann Coulter

Imagine you turn on your television, to the "mainstream media," and you hear the following exchange.

. . . . and now your host, Spudnuts O'Flapjaw:

Intro: Tonight's guest is the reigning princess of insight and wisdom on the left part of the American spectrum, Ms. Droolia McNopants.

SO: Droolia, I understand there are a number of rightwing websites that have targeted you for violence, including rape fantasies; is this true?

DM: Absolutely, Spud.

SO: Well, we're not going to identify these sites for our viewers; we don't want to give them the satisfaction.

DM: But I love the publicity, Spud; it makes my books sell millions more copies!

SO: What else do these sites say?

DM: They say a number of things that are simply insults, because they are unable to formulate a coherent argument. They want a Christian theocracy, they want to kill anyone who voted against George W. Bush (which they identify with treason); they want to eliminate the teaching of biology, and they want everyone with dark skins to die.

SO: Those are some strong claims, Droolia. Why do they hate us so?

DM: They are funded by a number of people with a political agenda that hates freedom of speech, hates the Constitution, hates minorities--religious or ethnic--and hates women. All these people who hold these views are hating haters and Nazis, and instead of constructing solid arguments based on evidence, they have to resort to name-calling, because they are Nazi traitors.

etc., etc., etc..

Last week (12.01.05) I was waiting for a ride, and turned on Fox, whereupon I received remarkably similar insights from a conversation between Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter.

I will recognize, up front, that more than enough has been written and said about Ms. Coulter; I keep waiting for her Warholian 15 minutes of fame to be over. On the other hand . . . .

I have pretty low expectations for Fox, only slightly lower than I have for CNN (identified by O'Reilly as "leftist") and MSNBC (which O'Reilly assures his viewers that "no one watches"). He may be right about the latter, although I watch it; identifying Lou Dobbs and Anderson Cooper as "leftist"--presumably Dobbs is the dialectical materialist, promoting state seizure of all private property, while Cooper is more of an anarcho-syndicalist, frequently shouting out "One Big Union!"--seems a bit of a stretch. Of course, on Fox, "the left" refers to, well anyone who disagrees with George Bush (except those who don't think him sufficiently conservative): thus on the Fox taxonomy, Joe Lieberman, Jack Murtha, Nancy Pelosi, Noam Chomsky, Stalin, Proudhon, Joe Biden, and Che all share the same basic ideology.

Here were the insights I gleaned from this extremely popular show: the members of the ACLU are "Nazi block-watchers"; no conservative can visit a college campus without hiring security; any liberal can so visit, but Ms. Coulter would "like to change that"; the differences between Ms. Coulter and Cindy Sheehan are a) one has written four #1 best-sellers and b) one has never said "America is not worth defending"; liberals cannot formulate an argument; feminists are torn over the many violent rape (if that isn't redundant) fantasies about Ms. Coulter that abound on the Internet, in that they generally object to rape but also generally object to Ms. Coulter.

This was an experience after which one needs mental floss.

The web is full of things about Ann Coulter, both for and against. Because the websites being discussed weren't identified, O'Reilly and Coulter could attribute virtually any claim to them without fear of being contradicted by, say, evidence. (Indeed, the claims become untestable and unfalsifiable--and thus useless--in that they can always say "You didn't find the website to which I was referring.")

So I looked for a good long time. Most--actually, all--the fantasies I ran into involved either consensual sex or the sex being Coulter's idea. Perhaps these rape fantasies are out there, but rape is such a violent and degrading act, I would think one should be careful using it in an accusation. (Although Ms. Coulter's exegesis of (presumably) Genesis takes it to say that
God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, 'Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it! It's yours." [Hannity & Colmes, June 20, 2001]
Maybe she throws this word around with the abandon she does with "treason"?)

The worst, most vulgar, and funniest, I read was this one:

I can't even type the site's name here but this is the link.

I actually think it is a bad idea to "pie" a speaker (although I can't object to making "pie" a verb; as Calvin [of Calvin and Hobbes] says, "verbing weirds words"), and I also object to "shouting down" speakers. I'm an old-fashioned "let a thousand flowers bloom, the truth will out" kinda guy (you know, the kinda guy that combines Mao and St. Paul).

In any case, if you wish to see specific and detailed objections to Ms. Coulter--whether style, content, or both--try these.

Columbia Journalism Review

The Late Spinsanity

The inimitable Scoobie

Ms. Coulter eschews name-calling, is profoundly adept at research, and, being almost unique among her generation for being able to construct coherent arguments, she thus serves as a paradigmatic and indispensable counterpoint to the left, which cannot construct such arguments, refuses to deal with facts, and thus has to resort to name-calling.

That's her take, at least. Personally, I think that calling the ACLU "Nazi block-watchers" and calling those who oppose the war in Iraq "gutless traitors" qualifies as name-calling. Personally, I think having larded up one's book with footnotes on the basis of what appears to be a highly-selective use of Lexis-Nexis doesn't qualify as "research." Personally, I can think of dozens of people who would qualify (for me, not on the spacious--albeit specious--account of the "left" provided by O'Reilly, which includes the AARP, CNN, the ACLU, and perhaps any other organization referred to by its initials except the NRA and the KKK) as being able to provide remarkably clear, well-constructed, powerful arguments. Starting with Marx (now he's on the left).

I also don't think it qualifies as part of the construction of a good argument to identify George Soros and all websites critical of the Bush II administration and all people posting at various sites on those websites as holding views in common, and thus being intellectually responsible for what any member of such a set puts forth. Yet she (and O'Reilly) does this constantly, by referring to "them" and "they," without ever distinguishing whether the particular view to which she objects belongs to, say, Soros or Move.On or a blogger or some knucklehead in Omaha harboring fantasies about her underwear.

I spent well over a year at her own chatroom, which is populated by a wide variety of people, including a number of posters who were both brighter and better-informed than their heroine herself. Can I ask her to be responsible for the views posted there, by referring to "them"? Some of the not-so-bright posters at Ann.Coulter.org have suggested that Muslim males be prohibited from traveling for a year; some have made death threats against (or wished for the death of) any number of Democrats (as well as against me); a few have even spoken of their desire for the death of all Muslims.

If I were to adopt Coulter logic:

How can they be in favor of genocide, and claim to be Christians?

Ms. Coulter says she loves to engage in repartée with those "stupider than she is" (quoted in the above story about her recent talk being interrupted). I have no doubt about that; who doesn't? The real question is what happens when she engages someone who is smarter than she is. Such people aren't hard to find, and thus such exchanges aren't difficult to arrange: but, evidently, they don't make good television. The rare times I have seen her talking with someone who wasn't simply adopting her approach of smarmy one-liners and invective, or a cheerleader (as is Sean Hannity), she becomes flustered and quickly gets off her game.

I would pay to see her debate constitutional interpretation with Laurence Tribe. Or the role of government with Mario Cuomo. I'd even bring the paper towels with which to clean her up off the floor afterwards.

The obvious question that remains is this: why am I envious of her?

Because she can't work very hard--too much of the stuff she says must simply be made up, but isn't the kind of fiction that takes a lot of work (in contrast to, say, Banks or Roth or Morrison)--but she makes scads of dough and seems to have a lot of fun.

My Dad is convinced (and has some good reasons for thinking) that Rush Limbaugh doesn't believe half of what he says. Perhaps the same is true for La Coultera; she has a shtick, similar to El Rushbo's, of saying outrageous, indefensible (and frequently false or unfalsifiable) things, yet doing so in a humorous manner (accompanied by the basic attitude of "I can't believe anyone would be so benighted or evil to consider disagreeing with me!").

Thus she has gotten rich and famous for articulating half-baked and potentially pernicious ideas, and selling them to people who are happy to have their meanest thoughts confirmed.

Wouldn't you be envious if you had pulled off such a scam?

The obvious topic to pursue is whether or not any of her professors at Cornell recommend Richard Hofstadter's works to Ms. Coulter (e.g. The Paranoid Style in American Politics, or Anti-Intellectualism in American Life), following that up with a bit of Santayana's wisdom, or Nietzsche's, or Marx's: for, after all, history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.