Sunday, August 22, 2004

Neighbor John

This is making the rounds on the internet. I don't know if there really is a B.T. Nicholson or if he really is John Edwards' neighbor, but the factual stuff he relates about Edwards from the middle of the piece on should be easy enough to corroborate for anyone who's interested. It would certainly be interesting to have an enterprising journalist look Nicholson up and interview him on the record.

Subject: Meet my neighbor

Written by: B. T. Nicholson, a neighbor of John Edwards

I'd like to introduce you to my neighbor. I'm from Raleigh, North Carolina, and for several years I've lived around the corner from Vice Presidential Candidate John Edwards. My neighbor John has been in the news a good deal lately, but it's hard to tell about the man himself from the coverage. Maybe I can help you get to know him better.

Even several years ago, before he was elevated to the national stage, my neighbor John didn't socialize much with other neighbors. He didn't gather with other neighbors at the Fourth of July and he didn't come out to the sledding hills to watch the kids play after a snow. My neighbor John preferred to jog through the neighborhood by himself. There's no sidewalk on Alleghany Drive, John's Street in Raleigh, and if you drove past him as he was jogging on the road and didn't slow down enough for his taste he'd flip you the bird.

Even after he became a U.S. Senator, he'd still come home to Raleigh every once in a while, would still jog through the neighborhood, and would still flip the occasional bird to passing cars. He last showed me his middle finger about four years ago.

Since then, my neighbor John is rarely in town. When he is home, though, we in the neighborhood all know it. My neighbor John invited reporters from TV, radio, and print news organizations to come to his house in January 2003 for the announcement of his Presidential bid. He didn't want any news vans parked on his property -- in fact, he made sure all the cameras and reporters waited in the street at the bottom of his driveway. That way everyone could get good footage of him strolling down the driveway to make his announcement, young children in tow. The news vans drove into the yards of John's neighbors and parked there. I heard two families ended up re-sodding their damaged yards, and John never apologized to anyone, much less offered any compensation. The family across the street from my neighbor John has since put up posts at their property line to try to keep that sort of thing from happening again.

The appearance was good for my neighbor John. Nobody else seems to matter to him. Since then, when my neighbor comes home (as he did July 10, to be interviewed with John Kerry for "60 Minutes"), Raleigh police officers block off the street. Those of us who live near him end up coming and going to and from our homes on a circuitous route, on a bad, unsurfaced road. Forsyth Street has been closed to through traffic, except when my neighbor is in town, because the road has been ripped up for installation of new gas and sewer lines. My neighbor's street is a public, city-maintained street, and it is the best way to get to homes just north of his. If my neighbor is around, though, apparently none of the rest of us can use the street at all.

It's good for my neighbor John. Nobody else seems to matter to him.

My neighbor John has been a very successful trial lawyer, but his practice of law sometimes seems more like extortion. A friend of mine is a doctor in Raleigh. He recently spoke with another doctor, an anesthesiologist, who was named in a suit filed by my neighbor John. Apparently a surgeon at a local hospital had made a mistake, and my neighbor John represented the injured patient. Not only did my neighbor John sue the doctor who made the mistake, but also sued the hospital and a string of others, including the anesthesiologist. There was no problem with the anesthesia -- the anesthesiologist had done absolutely nothing wrong. His attorney said so in a meeting with my neighbor John. John's neighborly response was that he couldn't care less if the doctor had done nothing wrong. That wasn't the point. The point was that clients come to my neighbor John because of his record of success and his reputation for thoroughness. Every defendant in a suit he files pays, regardless of whether they are actually guilty or not. My neighbor John demanded a settlement of $250,000, and said his firm was willing to spend $2 million to get it. The doctor's insurance company promptly paid the $250,000.

The rate of growth in North Carolina's medical malpractice insurance rates is among the highest in the nation. The total cost of health care rises with those rates. My neighbor John's slimy extortion is part of the reason.

Forget about right or wrong, guilt or innocence. My neighbor John did what was best for himself. Nobody else seemed to matter.

My neighbor John may be a trial lawyer, but in front of juries he also claims to be something of a psychic. You see, my neighbor John specializes in cases involving the death or serious injury of children. He claims to receive messages from dead or brain-damaged children, and the messages are much clearer and more specific than those received by the famous"psychic" who nearly shares my neighbor's name.

When a child has been killed or is otherwise unable to speak for him or herself, my neighbor John says he has the ability to "channel" that child. He tells juries he feels the child inside him, and that he has messages from that child, which he relays to jury members. He tells juries about the car-accident death of his own son, Wade, and speculates that he may have received the ability to "feel" the souls of dead or injured children because of the close relationship he still feels with his son.

It sounds hokey and more than a little creepy, but it seems to play well with juries, and results in very high jury awards. These awards have made my neighbor extremely wealthy. He's so wealthy that he created a corporation of which he is the only member, and pays himself most of his earnings as corporate dividends, not as salary or wages. Medicare taxes are not levied on dividend income, so my neighbor has avoided paying $600,000 into the Medicare system since 1995 by setting up this tax shelter. But he says others aren't paying their fair share of Medicare taxes.

It's good for my neighbor John, and nobody else seems to matter.

My neighbor made a lot of promises on his way to the Senate. He promised strong support for our military, but then voted against body armor, combat pay, and better health care for our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. He promised to support traditional North Carolina values, but then voted to the left of Ted Kennedy on partial-birth abortion, taxes, property rights, and a host of other issues. We in North Carolina feel betrayed. My neighbor John figuratively gave his constituents the middle finger while he ingratiated himself to Tom Daschle and the rest of the Democratic Party leadership.

My neighbor announced many months ago that he would not seek reelection, because he knows he's unpopular in North Carolina and would lose by a huge margin. According to a poll released this week, when the Kerry/Edwards ticket was announced, support for Kerry in North Carolina went down, not up.

We North Carolinians know John Edwards. We've been betrayed by him, and we do not support him.

But as he broke his promises to us, he gained favor with the Democratic Party leadership. Now he's a political star. I guess turning his back on the people he claims to represent has worked out well for my neighbor, John Edwards. Nobody else seems to matter.

B.T. Nicholson

Is This the Best They Can Do?

Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters has an excellent analysis of recent developments in the Swift Boat vets controversy. All three posts for August 22nd are worth checking out. You don't want to miss them.

On the matter of the SBVT controversy it's worth mentioning that so far the defense of John Kerry against the swiftees' charges has been at best, feeble. It amounts to the following nine arguments:

1) Kerry's accusers weren't on the boat with him. This argument has been largely abandoned as Kerry supporters have realized its irrelevance. The swift boat crews all served in close proximity to one another. Moreover, one of the swiftees, Mr. O'Dell, did serve on Kerry's boat.

2) The SBVT don't have any documents to support their claims. What sort of documents, one wonders, might they be expected to have. The only documents that exist which might support their claims Kerry refuses to allow to be released. Why?

3) The Naval documents that are in the public domain support Kerry's version of events. It is, however, the accuracy of these documents that is being called into question. It is foolish to reply to the charge that the documents contain errors of historical fact by saying that the documents support Kerry's account. The documents are alleged to be Kerry's account. Moreover, the documents do not support Kerry's claims to have been in Cambodia. These claims, which are almost certainly false, cast serious doubt on Kerry's credibility on everything else he has said about Vietnam.

4) Senator McCain says the SBVT are dishonest and dishonorable. No evidence is ever presented to show how Sen. McCain knows this. "Dishonest and dishonorable" are meaningless words in the absence of supporting evidence. They're nothing more than Sen. McCain's way of saying "I don't like this". The assertion alone is supposed to be self-validating because it's spoken by John McCain.

5) The SBVT are lying. This is all just a Republican smear campaign. Again, there is no evidence that the Republican party is behind the SBVT. Moreover, it can only be a smear campaign if the charges are false, but their falsity has not been demonstrated.

6) The vets are only doing this because they dislike Kerry. This is another attempt to evade the real question which is whether the charges are true. If they are, it doesn't matter why the SBVT are doing what they're doing. If the charges aren't true then their motive is merely a footnote.

7) Vietnam was 35 years ago. It's ridiculous to be talking about this now. Somebody should have told Sen. Kerry this when he reported for duty at the DNC. Kerry chose to make his four month stint in Vietnam his main, if not only, qualification for serving as president. He can scarcely complain if his adversaries take him up on it.

8) George Bush should denounce the SBVT now. The fact that he doesn't is reprehensible. First, Sen. Kerry stood by and let the most scurrilous things be said about Bush in the Democratic primaries. He didn't denounce Al Gore for accusing Bush of having committed treason. He didn't denounce Terry McAulliffe for claiming that Bush was AWOL from the National Guard. He didn't denounce Howard Dean for averring that Bush lied about Iraq, nor did he denounce Michael Moore for the odious allegations of 9/11. Now Kerry wants Bush to denounce the SBVT because they're saying mean things about him. It's a little late in the day for denunciations. Second, and more importantly, Bush should only denounce the SBVT charges if he knows them to be false. There is no reason to denounce them otherwise, and it would, in fact, be irresponsible of him to do so.

9) George Bush didn't serve in combat, Kerry did, so that makes Kerry a better man. This is Chris Matthews' argument, but it's absurd. First, serving in combat doesn't make you a better person than someone who didn't. If it did, then Lt. Calley would be a better man than the Pope. Second, George Bush has never made his service a reason to vote for him, Kerry has. To examine Bush's service, then, is irrelevant, but it's not irrelevant to scrutinize Kerry's since Kerry invited it.

Now a Mr. Rood who served with Kerry has come forward to offer him his support. Mr. Rood's testimony amounts to stating that the Viet Cong guerilla Kerry evidently shot to death, although no one saw any wound other than that inflicted by Kerry's machine gunner, was not dressed in a loin cloth and was not a teenager. If this is all that Kerry can drum up by way of support he's got a long way to go before he satisfactorily refutes the SBVT.

Don't skip the August 22nd posts at Captain's Quarters linked above.

Giving Public Schools a Black Eye

A story in the American Family Association Journal, if true, makes one wonder how much sense some public school teachers really have. In October of 2002 an Emmaus High School student by the name of Samuel Chen began organizing a lecture by Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe. Behe has lectured all over the United States after having written a book titled Darwin's Black Box which lays out a compelling argument for rejecting any purely materialistic explanation for the origin and evolution of life. The article states that:

Behe agreed to come in February 2004 and give an after-school lecture entitled, "Evolution: Truth or Myth?" As the school year drew to a close in 2003, Chen had all the preliminaries nailed down: he had secured Behe's commitment, received approval from school officials, and reserved the school auditorium.

Then the offal hit the fan. The science department head, one John Hnatow, began a campaign to prevent Behe's appearance at the Allentown, PA school. He and a colleague, Carl Smartschan, asked the principal to cancel the lecture. When the principal refused, Smartschan

asked the faculty advisor for the student group to halt the lecture. Smartschan even approached Chen and demanded that the student organization pay to have an evolutionist come to lecture later in the year.

Smartschan took it upon himself to talk to every teacher in the science department, insisting that intelligent design was "unscientific" and "scary stuff."

This is an astonishing attempt to censor student enquiry by people who are de facto agents of the state. The lecture, which attracted 500 listeners and was considered a success, took place after school and was sponsored by a student organization, not the school district. Behe is a scientist, but the theory he advocates, Intelligent Design, is not incompatible with any scientific theory. It is, however, incompatible with the philosophical assumptions of Darwinian naturalism. Naturalism states that natural processes and forces are adequate to account for all living things, whereas ID asserts the causal inadequacy of such processes in producing highly complex biological structures with high information content. ID theorists claim that only intelligence can provide a sufficient explanation for the intricate, complex and highly patterned structures we find in living things.

What the students were planning to do after school was not the business of these faculty bullies who should have been delighted that these young had the intellectual curiosity and initiative to take it upon themselves to invite someone of Behe's stature to come to their school to explain his ideas to them. These teachers, whether they agree with Behe or not, should have seized on this as an opportunity to stress the importance of considering all sides of a controversial issue instead of doing whatever they could to thwart these young people. So much for academic freedom and the search for truth, at least among the thought-police in the Emmaus High School science department.

John Stuart Mill wrote that "...the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error."

Unfortunately, it is doubtful that Mr. Hnatow and Mr. Smartschan have ever read Mill. It is much likelier that these men have been teaching orthodox materialistic Darwinism throughout their careers and are loath to have their students hear Behe's presentation because they fear it will make them look silly. Rather than suffer professional embarrassment of that sort they'd rather interfere where they have no right to deny their students a wonderful learning opportunity. It's no wonder that so many parents are suspicious of public education and opt out of it when they can.

The article goes on to describe the toll that the conflict has taken on Chen's health and is worth reading in its entirety.