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October 22nd, 2003:

De Clunibus Magnis Amandis Oratio

I think we can all agree that what the world needs now is more Latin translations of hiphop music, such as this stunning effort to bring the words of Sir Mix-a-Lot into the realm of Cicero, which inspired an equally compelling continuation here. I think the English re-translation would make for an excellent dramatic reading, as Steve Allen once did for Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff”, a Babelfish English->Italian->English version of which can be found here.

(Thanks to Matt for bringing this to my attention.)

Blog doings

Kos points out an interesting new blog called the Swing State Project, which aims to analyze the upcoming Presidential race in 19 states that were decided by less than 5 points in 2000 (full methodology explained here). It looks pretty promising so far.

You’ve probably already heard that Jeff Cooper is going on an indefinite hiatus due to some unfortunate health problems his young son is experiencing, but in case you haven’t, drop by and leave him a note of well-wishes.

Jim Capozzola is also going through some hard times, in his case more of an economic nature. He’s got a PayPal button if you are inclined to toss him a few coins.

There is some good news out there: Dwight Meredith, who retired his well-respected PLA blog recently, is now guest posting (second chairing?) at Wampum. It’s good to have him back.

Finally, I linked to one of his posts earlier, but I want to give a full intro to Jonathan Ichikawa, who is now the third current or former member of the Rice MOB to enter the blog world, joining myself and Doug Haunsperger. He’s doing the philosophy grad student thing at Brown and has some interesting stuff on his blog. Check it out.

UPDATE: I am covered with shame as Michael (a one-year MOBster himself from before my tenure there) reminds me in the comments that my own blogfather, Mike Tremoulet, is yet another former MOB member. Argh! Sorry about that, Mikey!

Extremism in the name of preventing fraud can be a vice

Jonathan Ichikawa points out the case of tax loony Irwin Schiff, who was recently hit with a restraining order that forbids him from distributing his latest tome, Federal Mafia: How the Government Illegally Imposes and Unlawfully Collects Income Taxes, from speaking about income taxes, and from preparing someone else’s tax return. It also required him to turn over his customer list to the government, an order which was stayed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

I’ve written about guys like Schiff and the scams they peddle (most recently here), and it’s vitally important to understand that what he is doing, no matter how fervently he may believe in it, is fraud. People go to jail and pay hefty penalties to the IRS for following his advice. Check out the invaluable Tax Protesters FAQ and see how often Schiff is mentioned by name or by court decision and you’ll see the extent of the problem. As such, I totally understand the government’s desire to keep him from getting even more otherwise law-abiding citizens into trouble.

That said, this order overreaches by at least half. Preventing Schiff from preparing tax returns strikes me as within the bounds of constitutionality, and preventing the sale of his book could be justified as an anti-fraud measure (had he been giving it away, he’d have a clearer free speech argument in my mind). Preventing him from speaking about the income tax, however, is wrong. He still has the right to his stupid opinions. The practical effect of doing this is to make him seem like a rebel or a martyr instead of just a grifter. In a perfect unlimited-resources world, the ideal answer would be to have someone follow him around at all times to counter what he says. We can’t do that, so some folks will have to learn the hard way.

As for his customer list, no way in hell, and I’d say that even if the Attorney General wasn’t John Ashcroft. I’d like to believe that the government is motivated at least in part by a desire to give those customers some education and the opportunity to voluntarily amend their returns, but that won’t be what happens. I’m sure all Schiff-inspired tax returns have a fair amount of commonality among themselves, so fire up the computers and let the pattern-matchers do their thing. Nice try, but no dice.

Who’s afraid of Richard Gephardt?

Big Media Matt says he’s “puzzled” by this story in which a majority of GOP politicians and strategists polled named Rep. Richard Gephardt as the Democratic candidate that they think is the strongest challenger to Bush. I can understand his lack of enthusiasm for Gephardt, but I don’t think there’s anything puzzling about this, nor do I think there’s anything as sinister as a feint by the GOP to get us gullible Dems to back the wrong horse.

No, I think this simply means that the GOP is as unsure right now who the most “electable” Democrat is as the Democrats are. Each of the six major candidates has different strengths, and if you focus solely on those strengths, as appears to be the case here, it’s easy enough to construct a solid case for this guy or that one. The fact of the matter is that any Democratic candidate who succeeds at using his strengths and minimizing his weaknesses will have a good shot at the Presidency. It’s just that none of us right now knows who is the most likely do this, so we pass the time speculating. Maybe these Republicans are right and maybe they’re wrong, but the bottom line is nobody knows, and we won’t know until it’s too late for us Democrats to change our minds. That more than anything is what scares me about this race.

I do have one nit to pick with this article:

One of the main reasons many other Republicans fret about Gephardt is the electoral map, which many in the GOP say points to the Midwest as the region that will decide the presidency.

It says here that the party that obsesses the most over one part of the country will lose. There are key swing states all over the map – New Hampshire, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado. Focusing on one region means not paying enough attention to voters elsewhere who may be receptive to your message. Al Gore ignored the Mountain West area, and lost Colorado 883,000-738,000 with 91,000 people choosing Nader, Nevada 301,000-279,000 with 15,000 people choosing Nader, and Arizona 781,000-685,000 with 45,000 people choosing Nader (source). Voters are ignored at a candidate’s peril.

UPDATE: Nick Confessore has a good take on this at TAPPED.

UPDATE: A very different take on the merits of a Dean candidacy at Tacitus.