Wednesday, July 21, 2004

I've been following the Berger (and Wilson) fiasco with considerable interest, naturally.  I agree with most commentators that his actions are almost inexplicable.  This has led some people to decide that the most likely reason is stupidity and/or incompetence.  This certainly has significant attraction for me.  What's that aphorism, something along the lines of "Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity"?  My first default when something like this occurs is that the person involved just had a brain fart.  However, I can't agree in this case.

It seems the most notable person to espouse this theory (other than Bill Clinton, I suppose) is Virginia Postrel.  She gives odd credence to a report put out by the NYT.  The problem I have with the whole idea that this was simple stupidity is threefold:

1.  Berger has been out of government for several years, so the idea that he was still so used to handling top secret documents that he was just careless with them is simply not plausible.

2.  Even accepting the doubtful proposition that the NYT story is right about Berger simply putting the notes in his pockets, rather than putting them down his pants and even in his socks as reported by other news outlets, he has admitted that he had a briefcase with him.  If you "knowingly" take such notes with you, and you have a briefcase with you, why would you put them in your pockets rather than in your briefcase?  Using Occam's Razor myself, I can only reason that he intentionally put them on his person to avoid the theft from being discovered should his briefcase be searched.  In other words, he knowingly violated the law.

3.  I'm not sure if Ms. Postrel was the one who mentioned the case of Mr. Deutch, the former CIA director, to bolster the idea that people who handle sensitive documents on a daily basis become careless with them.  If she didn't, someone else has.  However, to my mind this actually hurts the Berger as bumbler theory.  The fact is that Mr. Deutch required one of Bill Clinton's infamous pardons to escape a possible criminal conviction.  He also had his top secret clearance revoked.  I'm sure that Berger is well aware of his former associate's humiliation.

4.  I know I said 'three-fold', but I just remembered another reason to be doubtful.  It is also being reported that this didn't just happen the one time.  Having documents which Berger was handling disappear not just once, but twice or more, doesn't suggest innocent "mistakes" either.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Back from hiatus with another disagreement with Den Beste.  Somehow he brings the blogger out of me.  I generally agree with his post about gay marriage and the debate between Sullivan and Lowry, but there is one critical area that I think his arguement falls down.  He writes:
"[Sullivan's] analogy to the apartheid laws doesn't survive close scrutiny. Take, for instance, the laws about miscegenation to which he referred, which forbade interracial marriages. Under those laws, Bob Blonde-and-Blue could legally marry Suzie Snow-White, but Clyde Coal-Black could not legally marry Suzie Snow-White. In objective terms, therefore, the law was discriminatory.

But that is not the case for the law Rich supports. Under that law, Gary Gay-and-Proud would be forbidden to marry Quincy Queer. Harry Hetero would also be forbidden to marry Quincy Queer. However, both Gary and Harry would be permitted to marry Flora Feminine. Objectively, the law treats Gary and Harry equally.

It is true that Gary doesn't have any interest in marrying Flora, and Harry isn't even slightly interested in Quincy. It is true that subjectively the law is unequal, because it forbids Gary from marrying the man he loves, while permitting Harry to marry the woman he loves.

But that's exactly the Anatole France argument: the law forbids both the wealthy and paupers from sleeping under bridges. That law, too, is objectively equal because it applies identically to all. It is irrelevant that only paupers wish to sleep under bridges, and that the law only thwarts paupers."
The problem here is that the law does NOT treat Gary and Flora equally.  Flora can marry Harry or Quincy, but Gary cannot marry either of them.
Let's go further and add another hypothetical character, Linda Lesbian.  Gary can marry Linda, whle Flora cannot. 
I have to strongly disagree with Ben Beste in his assertion that this is unlike the "seperate but equal" standard of years past.  Only people of a Race A could drink from fountain A, while only those of Race B could drink from fountian B.  Likewise, Flora can only marry males while Gary can only marry females. 
Objectively, I don't see any difference between the two.