"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Monday, October 10, 2005

TRC Hall of Famer: Buckley

Everyone has their heroes. One of mine, since the tender age of about 18, has been William F. Buckley. I'm thinking about him because of this lovely profile in the NYT. Without Buckley, I seriously doubt there would ever have been a Goldwater presidential run or a Reagan presidency. It is a cliche', a true one, but still a cliche', to say that Buckley gave the conservative movement style and wit. Some claim him as the founding modern conservative intellectual, but one would need to make a bit of room for Russell Kirk (who showed us the historical pedigree of conservatism) and Whitaker Chambers (who never accepted the conservative label), too.

In an article about the Rush Limbaugh/ESPN/Donovan McNabb fiasco, I wrote the following about Buckley:

While a graduate student at the University of Georgia in the early nineties, I had the privilege of attending a speech given by William F. Buckley. The elder statesman of the movement amazed the large crowd with both his wit and his wardrobe. To this day, I remember his navy sportcoat, yellow shirt, khaki pants, and RED belt. You’ve got to be good to pull that look off, but Buckley was equal to the task.

At the end of his presentation, he allowed questions. The first supplicant approached the microphone and hopefully inquired, "Mr. Buckley, what do you think about Rush Limbaugh?" This was during the time when Rush was still something of a rising star. His rhetoric was bombastic, hard-edged, and wickedly funny. Members of the audience shifted forward in their seats expectantly as Buckley answered by telling the following story.

There were two Spaniards sitting in a bar. One asked the other, "What do you think about General Franco?" Instead of answering, the man gestured for his friend to follow him outside. Once on the sidewalk, he motioned for the friend to follow him to his car. They got in the car and drove to a forest. Deep in the woods, he parked the car and beckoned the friend to hike with him down to a lake. At the edge of the lake, he pointed to a boat which they boarded. He grabbed the oars and rowed to the center of the lake. Finally, he sat still, looked his friend in the eyes and paused for a moment. "I like him." Buckley told the story so brilliantly and created so much suspense, the denouement brought the house down amid gales of laughter and happy applause.

Not as many will take notice when Buckley finishes his time among us as did when Ronald Reagan passed on, but I'm quite sure there will be some of us who may feel the loss even more deeply when it comes.

Buckley was/is incomparable. The NYT story carries the suggestion that Buckley became so much larger than life because he stood alone without much competition. I think he'd shine in any crowd.

Experts Say Hurricanes-Global Warming Connection Is False

A forthcoming article from the November issue of Environment and Climate News (which this author serves as senior editor), published by the Heartland Institute, quotes the past president of the American Association of State Climatologists as debunking the notion that hurricanes are increasing in intensity because of global warming. Pat Michales points out that the circumstances that cause the fiercest hurricanes have not changed at all in recent years:

“It is a contravention of science to attempt to link Katrina’s intensity to global warming,” said Pat Michaels, past president of the American Association of State Climatologists and senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

“Since 1982 we have had weekly records of sea surface temperature,” Michaels noted. “During this time period we can examine on a fine scale the relationship between hurricanes and sea-surface temperature. The threshold water temperature for category 3 hurricanes is 28 degrees C. Interestingly, for category 4 or 5 hurricanes, there is no statistical relationship with the amount of elevation beyond 28C. The Gulf of Mexico reaches 28 C every year, whether or not the planet has warmed or is cold.”

“The most intense tropical cyclone to ever strike the United States was hurricane Camille in 1969,” observed Michaels. “Camille landed very, very close to where Katrina landed. Significantly, Camille occurred when the temperature of the northern hemisphere was at its low point for its last 80 years. Camille simply needed an ocean temperature of 28 C. Clearly, it is irresponsible to link severe Gulf of Mexico hurricanes to global warming.”

The article goes on to quote Competitive Enterprise Institute senior fellow and statistician Iain Murray confirming that the sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico reaching 28 C is nothing new:

“For hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, sea surface temperatures need only get above 28 degrees C for them to help make the hurricane Category 4 or 5,” Murray said. “Sea surface temperatures there regularly go above that level, and have done so for as long as we can remember.”

Of course, we need only await the next incidence of severe weather somewhere in the world if we wish to hear the next crackpot theory about how human-caused global warming is causing previously unimaginable catastrophes. The scenario Michael Crichton outlined in his excellent novel State of Fear is still being played out in the U.S. and European media.

Demographics 1 for Journalists

I have noted in the past that modern-day journalists---predominantly English or Political Science majors who failed to get into law school---are ignorant, stupid, lazy, dishonest, biased, and arrogant.

I was too kind. Take a look at today's LA Times, which "reports" that drug overdoses increasingly are concentrated among people in their 40s; in 1985, the dominant age was 32. And so the geniuses at the LAT seem to conclude that drug use increasingly will be a phenomenon of the middle-aged, and that new programs are needed to deal with this new trend.

Oh, dear. Has it occurred to our crack reporters that there is a cohort---the ineffable boomers---that for whatever reason is more prone to drug use, and that drug use becomes increasingly concentrated in that aging cohort as time moves on? Or does the Times actually believe that this "trend" indicates that those now in their twenties increasingly will turn to drug use over the next two decades?

It's really quite unbelievable. Is so elementary an analytic dimension of basic demographics beyond the understanding of our modern journalists? Or are they the ones on drugs?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

TRC Film Review: A History of Violence

By virtue of his work in the LOTR trilogy, Viggo Mortensen has clearly made his way into the top tier of Hollywood leading men. The fact that he got the juicy role of Tom Stall in A History of Violence proves it.

HOV is a superb film. I haven't seen anything in the theatre that has caught my interest in the way this movie did in a long time. It is violent, graphically violent in a smoothly choreographed fashion, but this isn't action movie violence. It isn't glorified. At every point you see the dualistic nature of violence, justified or not, and the way even the justified violence leaves you feeling a little sick.

The basic story is about a simple, small-town man who kills men about to commit rape, robbery, and murder in his cafe'. He is so successful in thwarting the attack of these bad men, he attracts attention from the media who view him as a hero and from less savory characters who think he is one of their number from the past. These big-city mob types want to kill Tom Stall as revenge for something they believe he did years ago. They think his name is Joey and that he maimed a made man.

Whether he is the man they are looking for or not, I leave for you to find out.

In any case, the film is very successful in riveting the viewer's interest and stimulating thought. You care about the characters and become invested in the outcome.

Finally, William Hurt had a small, but very important part in the film. He may be on screen for ten minutes, but they all count. He's magnificent in his role. If they give an Oscar for a brief, but powerful appearance, it's his.

Side note: There are two sex scenes in the film between Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello. The scenes are semi-gratuitous. I say semi because they do contribute to the development of the story, but the same could have been done with less graphic scenes. I wouldn't mention it except that the scenes are far from cookie-cutter, so you end up reflecting on them.

Side note 2: Despite the fact that I clearly asked for a ticket to A History of Violence, the cashier gave me a ticket to The 40 Year Old Virgin. Since it was a weeknight and it didn't matter, I didn't ask for a new ticket. After the film, however, I wondered whether the mistake could have been intentional. Think of it, my money went to a film I didn't see. Unethical individuals could arrange something like that with bribes or favors to cashiers. I could be on an imagination trip, but it seems possible.

Friday, October 07, 2005


Movement conservatives have their panties in a bunch over Harriet Miers. So be it--she is apparently not herself a movement conservative. News flash--neither is George W. Bush.

Dubya is of the Christian evangelical strain of the Republican coalition, one that has common cause with the "movement" almost across the board--a regard for the societal norms that by hook or crook raised us from the Hobbesian ooze, a belief in a higher moral order, and an economic liberalism that's really an opposition to statism, especially the post-modern kind which holds man is no more than the sum of his atoms, and his society no more than a set of conventions to be manipulated for maximum utilitarian efficiency.

I may be stretching here to point out that the conservative movement has attracted many Catholics and Jews, whose heroes number Catholics Thomas Aquinas and William F. Buckley, and on the neo-con side the putatatively Jewish (but likely atheist) Leo Strauss. Logicians all of the first order, from religious cultures that highly value such things.

However, to the Luther-inspired evangelical system of values, faith alone saves. The best person for the job is not the one with the best mind, but with the best philosophy, and Jesus is the best philosopher. Therefore, character, that which leads one to his values and then binds him to those values when the going gets tough, is the true measure of a man.

Or woman, in this case. And having worked side-by-side, day-to-day with Harriet Miers for over ten years, this is one decision for Dubya that isn't as hard as it looks. (I never believed he was taken in by Vladimir Putin, just trying to inspire the man's better angels.)

I understand the desire of Ann Coulter, et al., for a brainiac over a "good person," but be careful what you wish for. Intellect and logic are mighty but also give us Friedrich Nietzsche and Peter Singer.

It is character that abides. And if you poke through the accounts of Ms. Miers' life, a rare combinition of humility and assertiveness, there is little doubt that Dubya is convinced she's one of the best persons he's ever known, and his worldview is that the best person for the job is always the best person. (Based on my familiarity with the law industry as a headhunter, I find her qualifications adequate, if not bootstrap-admirable.)

I often have to use the completion-backwards principle to divine the workings of Bush's brain, as I've attempted here, but add in the politics of the matter, that Harry Reid suggested that Miers wouldn't get much of a fight, that the GOP half of the Gang of 14 is wobbly, and that this has not been the best of years to throw around the weight of his slim electoral majority, and the pick makes sense to me, at least from Bush's point of view.

Movement conservatives may rightfully say they didn't vote for Bush to get half-a-loaf Supreme Court candidates. However, many other folks who voted for him too may be getting just what they want, including the President himself.

Now, I've Really Had It

Per the Washington Post, let's review the following from Harriet Miers:

In an initial chat with Miers, according to several people with knowledge of the exchange, Leahy asked her to name her favorite Supreme Court justices. Miers responded with "Warren" -- which led Leahy to ask her whether she meant former Chief Justice Earl Warren, a liberal icon, or former Chief Justice Warren Burger, a conservative who voted for Roe v. Wade. Miers said she meant Warren Burger, the sources said.

Oh . . . My . . . Goodness . . . This . . . is . . . terrible . . . Blacking . . . out . . . Choking . . . on . . . own . . . tongue . . .

There is no good way to read this.

A. She isn't sure about the difference between Warren Burger and Earl Warren.
B. She chose either Burger or Warren as her favorite, neither of which would augur particularly well for her judicial philosophy.
C. When trying to say Warren Burger was her favorite, she could only think to refer to him by his first name.
D. She really meant Earl Warren, which would be an utter and complete meltdown. She could have said him simply because he is the most famous modern Justice.
D. Other unflattering possibilities.

I am famous for getting angry about elitism or about labeling ideological enemies as stupid, but listen up, there is qualified and there is not qualified. I don't think Harriet Miers is qualified. She is surely a top litigator, trial advocate, and legal manager. She is not surely anybody's constitutional scholar, Supreme Court advocate, or judge. (HT: Southern Appeal)

Update: Kathryn Lopez at National Review says she has heard another version of this story in which Miers was interrupted while attempting to say Warren . . . Burger for his administrative skills as an answer to which justices she admired. That would be a very strange answer, too, but it's the blogosphere so you can have the two stories so far in front of you. This is hearsay, which may be better or worse than the Washington Post account claiming several sources.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Receivable In Voices

Anyone who has read my work knows that I believe in God and that I think that a great deal of intellectual and moral information resides in religious texts; nor do I belittle the inspiration that can be derived from religious experiences.

On the other hand, Presidents who go around telling heads of state (or wannabe quasi-heads of faux states) that God is sending them messages (other than the sense that God inspires the operation of their intellect and discretion) how to govern get me nervous. Here, read this and tell me what you think.

Mr. Karnick, Your Answer in Part . . .

Is right here:

New Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. yesterday sharply questioned a lawyer arguing for preservation of Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law, noting the federal government's tough regulation of addictive drugs.

At the outset, Chief Justice Roberts directed a barrage of questions at Oregon Senior Assistant Attorney General Robert Atkinson before the state official could finish his first sentence.

"Doesn't that undermine and make enforcement impossible?" he asked Mr. Atkinson.

At one point, a flustered Mr. Atkinson said: "I'm starting to be backed into a corner."

It makes a difference what kind of intellect and experience you put on the court.

My Mom

Well, I've missed a lot around here lately. I was back in Philadelphia, where my mother, Marie, passed away peacefully last week at age 71.

She was too weak to undergo a second operation, but strong enough to stay with us a few weeks longer so we could all say goodbye, and slowly get used to the thought of living on without her. That's the way she was, giving much more than she took.

It was difficult, of course, but thoroughly proper in that old-fashioned way before this age of pulling tubes and plugs, gathered about her bedside singing songs, retelling our family stories, catching up for the last time, and sharing lots of smiles and laughs and kisses.

She said that it sounded strange, but she had some very, very happy times in those last few weeks. I know what she meant. There are a few selfish tears of loss, but mostly the ones that come in the face of those rare moments of crystal clear yet incomprehensible beauty.

Please let me thank you all for the warm thoughts sent our way through this, and close off the comments for this post. A quick prayer would be appreciated. Sleep in peace, Mom, until I come to thee.

"When you find a moment of happiness, bask yourself in it. Roll around in it and enjoy it. Promise me you will.

And when the bad times come—and everyone has their time on the fence—you take it one day at a time. That's all there is for it."
Marie O. Dyke

Sen. Kennedy's Colossal Nerve

A message making the rounds of the internet reports and comments briefly on an interesting statement recently made by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), which I confirmed by finding the relevant quote in the Washington Post here. The Kennedy statement was in regard to the federal government's response to Katrina, and the internet message is as follows:

"What the American people have seen is this incredible disparity in which those people who had cars and money got out and those people who were impoverished died," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said.

Mary Jo Kopechne could not be reached for comment.

The Spin Zone

Cato Institute received a call this morning inviting me to appear on Fox TV’s O’Reilly Factor. For a moment, that seemed odd. In my experience, the only way you get invited on that show is if you agree beforehand to (1) keep repeating “you’re absolutely right” to O’Reilly or to (2) take some absurdly extreme position that will be easy for him to shoot down. This unique exception to those two rules was because my new column, “The Foolish Factor,” got someone’s attention.

I couldn’t possibly appear on TV tonight. There is a not-to-be-missed black tie event tonight celebrating National Review’s 50th Anniversary. Bill Buckley and the late James Burnham discovered me back in 1971, recruiting me to be NR’s economics editor for several years.

To avoid being exposed to a familiar O’Reilly stunt – namely, “we invited him to appear” (but he was too chicken) – I agreed to do a radio interview instead. But the President said something and that got me bumped. For the record, I’m not intimidated by O’Reilly’s inclination to call his critics pinheads, even though he is a foot taller than I am.

What is being tested here is the thickness of his skin. In his September 9 show, “Feeling Sorry for O’Reilly,” he said, “After I criticized the price gouging by the oil companies, ‘Bill O'Reilly is an Economic Fool,’ headlined one blog. Well, take out the word "economic" and you'd be more accurate.” That showed his sense of humor, which is fine, but the truth is that leaving in the word “economic” would be more accurate. O’Reilly is wise and clever about many issues, but not economics. He has degrees in history, journalism and public administration, but must have slept through basic economics.

He concluded that show saying, “Feeling sorry for me yet? Look, all this dishonest nonsense is ideologically driven. And it appears all day every day in this country, there are no standards anymore in the media. But the good news is that folks are seeing through the propaganda and coming into venues that tell the truth and deliver opinion backed up by fact.” My "ideologically driven" (?) column claims Bill O’Reilly has not been telling the truth about price gouging by the oil companies and he has not been backing up his arrogantly ignorant opinions with any facts.

Don’t feel too sorry for O’Reilly. He has his own column with the same syndicate that carries mine, and his own newsletter, so he is welcome to try answering me in print if he likes. Or, he could simply confess that he has no idea how gasoline prices are set or by whom. The rest of us print corrections when we make mistakes. There's no dishonor in that.

Miers v. Ingraham

Richard Miniter has a devastating piece comparing Harriet Miers to talk show host Laura Ingraham for the Supreme Court spot at National Review. Consider this:

Miers's undergraduate education was completed at Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 1967. Ingraham graduated from Dartmouth College, in Hanover, New Hampshire. That's not to say an Ivy League education is a prerequisite for Supreme Court service. It's not. But as one of many details in one's background, a highly selective admissions process is not nothing.

Campus conservative? No, Miers was essentially apolitical in the 1970s and gave money to various national Democratic politicians in the Reagan years. By contrast, Ingraham was a regular contributor to the conservative Dartmouth Review and worked in the Reagan White House.

Miers attended law school at Southern Methodist University, not one of the nation's top 20 law schools at the time. Even today it is ranked 52nd best in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. Ingraham studied at the University of Virginia Law School, currently ranked eighth in the nation.

Federalist Society membership? It does not appear that Miers bothered to join. Of course, it was founded years after she passed the bar, but many conservative lawyers do join after law school. "But she supports the society," says White House press person Dana M. Perino, and Miers has spoken at a number of Federalist Society events. Ingraham of course was a member.

Clerked for federal judge? Yes, Miers clerked for a U.S. District court judge Joe E. Estes in Dallas. Ingraham clerked for judge Ralph K. Winter on the second circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Clerked for U.S. Supreme Court? Miers did not, while Ingraham researched for Justice Clarence Thomas.

Age does not seem to favor Miers either. She’s 60; two decades younger, Ingraham would have more natural staying power.

Attorney at a top-20 national law firm? While a lot has been said about Miers's accomplishments, her old firm is simply not a major player on the national stage. Even after a merger with another firm, the new outfit, known as Locke, Liddell & Sapp, was ranked no. 94 by The National Law Journal in 2003. That same year, Ingraham's firm — Skadden, Arps, Meagher & Flom — was ranked no. 3 by The National Law Journal. So, at best, Miers was a big fish in a smallish pond.

Both Miers and Ingraham have White House experience. Ingraham was a speechwriter for President Reagan in his last two years, helping craft the president's message on many of the vital issues of the day. Interestingly, despite what Bush describes as Miers's "stellar record of accomplishment in the law," he did not name her White House counsel in his first term. Instead, she was appointed staff secretary, a manager of presidential paperwork. While many distinguished people have served as staff secretary, including Brett Kavanaugh, it may say something about Bush's view of Miers's capacities that he first put her in such a detail-oriented staff job, rather than one grappling with major legal and policy issues. Miers only became counsel to the president, the top legal job in the White House, in February 2005. Seven months later, she was nominated for a Supreme Court seat.

Of course, Miers has other government experience. She cleaned up the mess at the Texas Lottery Commission. No doubt a vital public service. But Governor Bush did not urge her to join the state supreme court. Meanwhile, Ingraham served in policy positions at the U.S. Department of Transportation and Department of Education. This seems like a draw.

Miers does not have much a paper trail, or at least one that the public will be able to see. By contrast, Ingraham has written two books, including one bestseller, as well as many bylined articles in national newspapers and magazines.

The president told a reporter Ms Miers is the most qualified female lawyer in the nation. Think he'd like to reconsider? And Ms. Ingraham isn't even the best credentialed female out there.

It's Not Just About Pro-life

We keep hearing assurances that Harriet Miers is pro-life.

That is not, strictly speaking, what I'm interested in. It is true that I am ardently pro-life and that I am on record in the Regent University Law Review arguing that changes in our medical knowledge now fully vindicate treating unborn humans as persons under the 14th Amendment. However, what I am interested in is getting a judge who will not twist the Constitution into a vessel for imposing one's preferences on the American people as was so clearly done in Roe. Roe was wrong on history, wrong in what it said it didn't need to know, and wrong in its constitutional interpretation. Those penumbras and emanations resonating off various parts of the Constitution were ridiculous and we all know it. If they weren't, then we should have "discovered" massive protection from economic regulation in the contracts clause.

Miers' friend Judge Hecht has said that one could be pro-life and still believe the constitution requires upholding Roe. I don't think so, not because of any special quality of being pro-life, but simply because no intellectually honest person can or should believe the constitution requires upholding Roe.

At a minimum, Justice Scalia is right and the abortion decision should revert back to the states. His position is not related to his pro-life viewpoint. His position depends entirely on his theory of constitutional interpretation, which is the only theory that keeps us out of the situation of having five of nine justices essentially rule as philosopher-kings.

So, what we are interested in is Ms. Miers' understanding of constitutional interpretation, not her political position re: abortion. I would rather have a jurist with a correct understanding of the constitution than I would one who believes the right thing policy-wise about abortion.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

. . . Still Not Bothered

I find the anger of the Republican rank and file toward President Bush for the Miers nomination quite interesting, and I greatly respect the opinions of my fellow members of the Reform Club. I have been quite critical of President Bush on this site, from the right of course, especially as regards his economic policies. I think that I have been the most critical of the Reform Clubbers by far, toward this president. Perhaps this is why I have not reacted with such horror at the Miers nomination: My expectations of this president have evidently been not nearly as high, and hence my disappointment is minimal. To me, the nomination remains a practical question: Will Miers make a strict-constructionist majority on the Court? And to me the answer is yes.

Ross Douthat Suggests the Path for Winning the GOP Primary in 2008

Ross Douthat is one of my favorite commentators and he shows why in this post:

Idle Speculation:

In spite of the fact that only Hugh Hewitt seems willing to step up and defend the "deplorable" Miers appointment, I think the odds are about 1000-1 that she'll sail through her confirmation hearings. That said, it seems like there's a political opportunity here for a right-wing Republican Senator looking to become high-profile in a hurry. Somebody in the Senate is going to be the first to point out, loudly, that the Harriet Miers pick is an utterly ridiculous case of Dubyan cronyism. And if that somebody is also a conservative Republican who's willing to point out how unfavorably she compares to Scalia and Thomas (and Roberts) - well, they'd earn the eternal enmity of the Bush clan, but they'd also probably manage the difficult twofer of getting favorable coverage in the mainstream press (for being independent, anti-cronyist, etc.) and earning some serious chits with the GOP's base, to be cashed in during the '08 race or beyond.

Does that sound politically risky? Sure. But this is a moment when the end of the Bush era is suddenly and strikingly visible, and what happens during the Miers hearings might make a big difference in where various figures stand once Bush has gone back to Crawford for good.Perhaps just this thought has occurred to Jon Thune . . .

PS - Or Rick Santorum . . .

Calling Hugh Hewitt for a Justification

Hugh Hewitt is one of the most ardent defenders of the Miers nomination, referring to it as "a B+ pick." I defer somewhat to Hugh in the normal course of events because he is often right, but this time he is a Bush homer to the limit.

The following line demonstrates the degree to which he is deceiving himself:

Yes, I wanted Judge Luttig or Judge McConnell, but the president wanted Miers, and I don't for a minute believe it is because of friendship, but because of W's understanding of the importance of the Court.

I'd like to know how you could possibly bring Luttig and McConnell into the conversation and then suggest the Miers pick was because of the importance of the court. I'd love to see Hugh defend his statement by explaining in what way Miers excels Luttig, McConnell, or any of the excellent female appellate judges who have been mentioned. He can't defend his statement in that way. That leaves us with friendship and personal comfort level, which are clearly the wrong criteria for the selection.

My own take is that Hewitt has generally been virtually uncritical in his support for Bush and that he reflexively supports Miers because he was also part of the White House Counsel's office. It's personal and organizational loyalty all the way. When it comes to the law, that attitude won't cut it.

David Frum Joins In . . .

This may be the line I was looking for in responding to our Captain S.T. It comes from David Frum:

He should have chosen a justice who could lead by power of intellect, and not because she possesses 1/9 of the votes on the supreme judicial body.

This is so right on it hurts. I have been one of the President's biggest supporters, but this choice represents such offensively poor decision-making, I just can't stay on the boat any longer. If Bush were allowed to run for a third term, I'd support somebody else in a primary run.

The President's petulance in the press conference shows that he knows there is a lot of resistance on the right and he doesn't care. I mean, the guy is just aggressively anti-intellectual and this is one place where intellectuals really count. We've heard from the defenders who try to make it seem that this is about her law school or the fact that various conservatives wanted nominees they knew personally, but that's not it at all. The weeping and gnashing of teeth is over just what Kathy says it is: there are too many who have paid their dues and demonstrated exactly the abilities needed for the court.

The White House thinks that this mess will blow over in 48 hours. Not bloody likely. These disappointments are deep and abiding. If I were polled on the president's job approval number today, he'd be heading into the 30's or worse. When the Pres. has lost me, he's really lost.

Kathy Piles On

Sorry, Sam, but I must stand with Ben and Hunter on this one. This nomination is one of the worst moves Bush has made so far, and I'm not a Republican cheerleader who has overlooked and excused his previous miscues.

I realize that people are reaching back into history to find nominations similar to Miers's, and to reassure themselves that some of those (Rehnquist, for example) turned out not so badly. I think this is misguided, for the simple reason that the Court today represents a power that it has never represented in the past, and thus demands a type of legal mind -- one that is philosophically committed to undoing its usurpation of that power -- that was never a requirement in the past.

I am not in any way reassured by these reverse arguments from silence. Elite lawyers, like any other professionals, make decisions about what is important to them and these are reflected in the kind of law they practice. Sunny smilers like Hugh Hewitt seem to think that it's just happenstance that Harriet Miers has never spent much time visibly engaged with constitutional law. Horsefeathers. She hasn't spent time becoming a constitutional scholar because it wasn't important to her, in the way it was important to fifty other conservative legal minds I could name off the top of my head, including a dozen women.

I am also not being won over by Bush's increasingly petulant manner when defending his nominee. It suggests to me that he did not anticipate the level of conservative disappointment he was courting, which suggests that he's not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, which suggests that the argument that we should trust him is somewhat misplaced.

Beyond Mere Voting . . .

S.T., I can't agree. There is a lot more to a Justice than how he/she votes. As one who has been through the law school process, I can tell you that what a judge writes matters greatly. We carefully examine the opinions, all of them (majority, concurring, dissenting), in order to get the full picture on religious liberty, free speech, interstate commerce, etc.

The great Princeton philosopher Robert George always urges his students to engage in the strongest possible lines of argument. In order to do that, you need the strongest possible arguers. We should pick our best and brightest, not our most comfortable, on the conservative side.

There is also the little matter that she is 60 years old and we give up a good decade of influence on the court, unnecessarily.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

. . . and One Who Is Just Not Convinced There's a Problem

Hunter Baker, Esq., and Dr. Ben Zycher have laid out some very well-considered arguments for their opposition to the Miers nomination.

Yet I remain unworried. Both writers are concerned that Miers might not be as steadfast as Justices Thomas and Scalia. That is a valid concern. However, certainty is something that we are seldom afforded in the case of a Supreme Court nominee. Sure, Miers could turn out to be another Souter, but it is important to remember that the Souter mistake happened because the president who nominated him was insufficiently aware of the possibility that he would prove to be so different from what was expected, and hence failed to investigate him sufficiently. Yet who could be more aware of such a possibility than the current president, son of the man who nominated Souter to his great regret? And whose judicial philosophy could Bush the Younger possibly know better than that of Miers, who has been a close associate for years? The situation is not at all analogous to the Souter nomination.

I still have been given no evidence that should cause us to believe that Miers will not be in agreement with the strict constructionists, and the notion that even if she is currently on the reservation she will quickly be worn down by blandishments of wily leftist status-givers strikes me as rather speculative at the least. In addition, the idea that a Supreme Court Justice's effectiveness is based on his or her ability to persuade other Justices to accept his or her opinions does not take into account the way the Court really works. The Justices know what they think, and they do not change their minds based on arguments made in camera with one another. On the contrary, they volunteer to write opinions and then write them, and concur with one side or the other according to their vote on the matter. This is my understanding based on what I have heard directly from Justices themselves, and I find it a highly plausible picture. After all, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia could not persuade Souter or Kennedy to join their side, much less move Ginsburg, Breyer, or Stevens even an inch. Finallly, the notion that the other Justices would look at Miers as a lightweight strikes me as extremely unlikely and of no moment. She would have a vote just like theirs, and that would be that.

As to the value of a public fight over judicial philosophy, wouldn't the point of such a fight be to establish a strict-constructionist judiciary? And wouldn't the creation of a strict-construction judiciary be achieved by the establishment of a strict constructionist majority on the U.S. Supreme Court? And isn't that exactly what Bush's nomination of Miers is intended to achieve? Why fight a war when we can just take the objective without a battle?

Ultimately, what counts is how a judge votes, and nothing else. I see no reason to believe that Miers will be anything other than the kind of Justice that the Republicans have been asking for, and that she will create a majority of such Justices on the Court.

Make That Two on the Reform Club Editorial Board Against Miers

I am completely unified with the good Doc Zycher both in his opposition to the Miers nomination and in his distaste for W's leadership at this point in the presidency.

I was extremely underwhelmed by his choice of Dick Cheney for Vice-President back in '00. Do I lack appreciation for the magnficent Mr. Cheney? No, he's a stud, but I knew the election would be hard fought and it didn't make sense to add a fellow to the ticket who tipped the scales not at all on any state that mattered. How did he pick Dick? Well, Mr. Cheney was charged with finding the right veep candidate, just like Harriet Miers was supposed to find the right court nominees. Twice on crucial personnel decisions, Bush has taken the (personally) easy way out and offered the job to a friend of the family.

I want to be clear about something. I expect Harriet Miers is superbly talented and has done her job well, but we are trying to have a debate both on the court and in the public about judicial philosophy. John Roberts, who was arguably the top Supreme Court advocate in the nation prior to his appeals court appointment, comes ultra-well equipped to join Thomas and Scalia in writing provocative opinions and perhaps even moving the court's decisions through sheer force of argument. Harriet Miers has nothing in her record to indicate she has that type of temperament or ability. She will also carry the disadvantage of joining the court without the kind of resume' that will command respect among the other members. If Bush had picked Michael McConnell for instance, he would have come on board as an elite legal scholar and an appellate judge. Instant respect. Instant ability to move the direction of the court. Instant vindication of GOP principles because we are supposed to believe in meritocracy. And of course, there have been female judges who have made names for themselves, as well, and who were far more deserving than Ms. Miers.

I believe the president should be able to appoint people he trusts to his cabinet and White House positions, but that is emphatically NOT the key point to be observed in nominations to the court.

What's the Problem?

My esteemed colleague Sam Karnick observes in the context of Harriet Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court that El Presidente W says that she has the right philosophy, an interesting observation from a man (W, not Sam) not known for philosophical musings, whatever his other virtues. And there purportedly is no reason to believe that she is less likely to retain her current philosophy than John Roberts. And she almost certain to be confirmed. And so, asks Sam: "What's the problem?"

Oh, dear; where to begin? In a White House that values "loyalty" above all, in a world in which the line between loyalty and sycophancy is less than sharp, Ms. Miers' "philosophy" remains entirely obscure, above all to President W regardless of the self-deception into which he has allowed himself to descend. That she implemented W's preferences in the numerous judicial searches conducted by this White House is far less revealing than Sam seems to believe: In a While House populated with sycophantic careerists desperately seeking each day opportunities to plant wet kisses on W's shoes (or somewhere), Miers is reported reliably to have displayed the greatest zeal of all, announcing to all within earshot that W is "the smartest man she ever met." Well: That says something interesting either about Miers or about W or about all the other men she has ever met, however few that may be. But we cannot know which. The central fact is that no one---probably including Ms. Miers---knows her legal philosophy, in that there is no evidence that she has ever devoted the time and effort necessary to develop one that can be called coherent. Perhaps she has. But what is the evidence for that other than a testimonial from W, who---ironically like Saddam---hears largely what his staff believes that he wants to hear? More generally, there is good reason to distrust---profoundly---anyone who has succeeded fabulously in an environment in which objectivity does not appear on the list of attributes yielding upward mobility. That environment is the current White House, and that success is the shining achievement of Miers.

And so the assertion that she will prove as steadfast as Roberts over the long run rests on a series of assumptions far less than awe-inspiring. It is at least equally plausible that, just as she has bent to the prevailing winds in the White House, she will over time "grow" as the Washington Post likes to put it, that is, move to the left. Perhaps that is wrong. But the point is that there is no way to know from her record; and unlike Roberts, who implicitly would have to repudiate a career-long record of writings and other output, Miers would face no such constraint in terms of a shift toward the Breyer/Ginsburg/Souter axis. And so: There is good reason to believe her more likely than Roberts to move to the left, particularly given the Beltway blandishments available to those who do so. The Harvard lectureships. The conference panels in Europe. Ad nauseam. Does Clarence Thomas---by far the best of the current Justices--- receive many such invitations? The question answers itself. Perhaps Miers indeed will prove steadfast. But what is the rationale for accepting this risk?

That she is likely to be confirmed is irrelevant to the issue of Constitutional philosophy, both in its own terms and in the larger context of depoliticizing the confirmation process. Here was a chance for W to nominate an intellectual giant. Here was a chance to force the leftists to oppose a stellar nominee, in a world in which such a stance would be far more difficult politically than in 1987. Here was a chance, with a nomination of, say, Janice Brown, to expose the utter hypocrisy and nihilism of the Senate blue staters. Here was a chance, in short, to drive several nails into the coffin of Borking. Here was a chance to excite the Republican base in advance of the 2006 elections. Here was a chance to entice the leftists into a filibuster and thus to shove the nuclear option down their throats. (Do not let anyone tell you that fifty votes would not be available to do so.) And so what did W do? He looked into Miers' eyes, presumably, and liked whatever it is that he thinks he saw. Not in every dimension, but in most, W is a disaster.

No Fear of Miers

I haven't yet weighed in with my personal assessment of President Bush's appointment of Harriet Miers to the the U.S. Supreme Court. Judging from the reaction here and elsewhere, everyone to the right of Harry Reid is appalled by the choice.

I guess that I must be preternaturally sanguine, then, because I just have not been able to see this appointment as troubling at all. Yes, I have heard that Miers gave money to Al Gore's 1988 presidential campaign (and that since then she has given mostly to Republicans). And I understand that the public knows little about her judicial philosophy. But Bush must most certainly know what she thinks about how justices should assess constitutionality, and he has said that he does know and is extremely confident of her conformity with his views on the matter. Hence it appears to me that she must have precisely the kind of judicial philosophy for which Republicans have been asking. Furthermore, we have been given no evidence for reasons to think her less likely to retain her current philosophy than, say, Chief Justice Roberts is. Plus, she's almost certain to be confirmed by the Senate. If all those things are true, what's the problem?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Krusty the Clown and the Miers Nomination

Rod Dreher hits it out of the park at The Corner:

There is no event that cannot be related to an episode of "The Simpsons." The freak-out among social conservatives about the Miers nomination reminds me of the "Kamp Krusty" episode, truly one of the all-time greats.

You'll recall that Bart and Lisa spend a summer at Kamp Krusty, which is gruesome, ghastly and horrible in about a million different ways.But Bart refuses to believe it, because to have done so would mean having to question his faith in his hero, Krusty the Klown.

But when the camp leaders try to pass Barney the Drunk off as Krusty, Bart cracks. He spouts:

"I've been scorched by Krusty before. I got a rapid heartbeat from his Krusty brand vitamins, my Krusty Kalculator didn't have a seven or an eight, and Krusty's autobiography was self-serving with many glaring omissions. But this time, he's gone too far!"

A Sharp Pain in the Gut

No, this is not about Harriet Miers. I thought we could all use a break from that disaster.

The first Nobel Prize of 2005, for Physiology and Medicine, was announced this morning. It was awarded to Drs. Robin Warren and Barry Marshall, both of Australia, for their discovery in 1982 that peptic ulcers are caused by the previously unidentified bacterium Helicobacter pylori.

Unlike Nobel Prizes in physics or chemistry or, God forbid, the Bank of Sweden Prize for Economics, the winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine have usually done something that has directly, identifiably, and promptly improved the quality of life of many, many people. This is undeniably true of this year's prizewinners. Before the discovery of this infectious agent, people with ulcerating lesions of the duodenum were told that their malady was the result of stress and a difficult personality, and were told to calm down and eat bland food for the rest of their lives. Their untreated infections caused not only pain, but various cancers of the stomach and esophagus. The modern treatment for peptic ulcer is a round of inexpensive antibiotics, which is effective in virtually 100% of infections.

Drs. Warren and Marshall were treated with extreme skepticism by the medical establishment when their theory was first proposed. Conventional medical wisdom had held, since the dawn of the germ theory of disease, that infectious agents could not survive in the harshly acidic environment of the human stomach. Because there were no suitable animal patients on which to experiment (and even today, no animal other than humans has been shown to harbor H. pylori), Marshall infected himself with a culture-grown colony of Helicobacter, made himself gravely ill, and proved the hypothesis. In the wake of this discovery, the role of infectious agents in a number of other chronic conditions, including heart disease, has been looked at anew.

Science has ever developed thus -- a couple of guys get an idea, everyone else tells them they're insane, they keep working at it, they take some risks, they absorb some insults, and in the end they wipe the eyes of their former detractors. Assumptions are made to be challenged, not blindly accepted, even if they have been held for a hundred years or more.

I'm sure you get my (continental) drift.

Measured Praise for Harriet Miers

While most conservatives, including those on this site, are wringing their hands over President Bush's appointment of Harriet Miers to replace retiring Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court of the United States, Indiana governor and former director of the federal Office of Management and Budget Mitch Daniels approves of the choice, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Or does he? The Star story quotes Daniels as saying, "She's very good at drawing out arguments on both sides of the question," and calling her a "decent, thoughtful, caring and balanced person." He said he got to know her well during his time in the White House and that her intellect is at least as good as those of the senators who will be questioning her during her nomination. The Star quotes Daniels as saying, "She is so hard working," and, "For all of her gifts, she is a very modest person."

Those are all very nice things, and superb qualifications to run the Red Cross. What is missing here, interestingly, is any mention of her opinions and central beliefs.

W and the Mind of Harriet

Well, I think that this nomination may well be the effective end of the Bush Administration--- which has not been a complete disaster, but largely one---and it almost matters not whether Miers turns out down the road to be a true Constitutionalist. With all of the incredible talent among which W was able to choose, this is the best he could do? "She has been listed as one of the most attorneys in America," or something like that. Maybe he looked into her eyes and determined the deep wellsprings of her philosophical bent. Just like with that libertarian, Vladimir Putin.

Uber-leftist Daily Kos is Right For Once

Sit back and enjoy
Mon Oct 3rd, 2005 at 09:25:16 PDT

Several Democrats, including Reid, have already come out praising Miers, which ultimately will only fuel the right-wing meltdown on the decision.

I reserve the right to change my mind, but Miers' biggest sin, at this early juncture, is her allegiance to Bush. That her appointment is an act of cronyism is without a doubt, but if that's the price of admission to another Souter or moderate justice, I'm willing to pay it.

More immediately, this is the sort of pick that can have real-world repercussions in 2006, with a demoralized Republican Right refusing to do the heavy lifting needed to stem big losses. That Bush went this route rather than throwing his base the red meat they craved is nothing less than a sign of weakness. For whatever reason, Rove and Co. decided they weren't in position to wage a filibuster fight with Democrats on a Supreme Court justice and instead sold out their base.

We'll have several months to pick through Miers' record, as well as highlight her role in any number of Bush scandals (like Georgia10 notes).

But my early sense is that this is already a victory -- both politically and judicially -- for Democrats. In fact, it should be great fun watching conservatives go after Bush. He may actually break that 39-40 floor in the polls, given he's just pissed off the very people who have propped up his failed presidency.

Update: Yup, Democrats are fully aboard. Reid's statement on the flip. Cue in more anguished wails from our esteemed colleagues on the other side of the aisle.

Kos is right about this one. Bush has made a potentially lethal decision for the party. The GOP caucus in the Senate should mark this one rejected and ask for a new submission.

Before 8 AM . . .

Why can't we turn back the clock? The sense of disappointment over this nomination has absolutely sapped me. Legal enthusiasts (like me) look forward to these opportunities that come along only every several years.

Yet, the president shows absolutely no daring, no creativity, no imagination. He selected his Supreme Court nominee the same way he picked his Vice-President, which is to say, he picked the person he charged with helping him find candidates!

Michael McConnell needs to make sure he gets a spot on the selection committee next time around. Then, he'll have a shot.

Force the Argument on Judges

A debate on constitutionalism is the absolute key to objections about the Miers nomination.

Even if she IS a strong conservative, we will not get the national debate over constitutionalist judges that we want.

If this nomination is made in fear of a fight over someone stronger or more obvious, then it has been made wrongly. The desire for constitutionalist judges is greater now than before. There is no reason to shrink or compromise or sneak through a stealth candidate. We should nominate Luttig or McConnell and build a little national interest.

Question: will the GOP run stronger after waging a tough battle to nominate a top-drawer judicial conservative or after sending up someone Dusty Harry likes? I think we all know the answer.

The Republican party cannot hurt itself by pushing judicial conservatives or by forcing Democrats to attack them. If moving the base is the key, Bush and Co. have made a bad, bad move.

National Review Gives up on Bush

Referring to the Meirs nomination as an "unforced error," David Frum, heretofore one of the Bush administration's strongest supporters in the press, writes on National Review Online that George W. Bush's legacy as president will largely be one of missed opportunities, of failure:

Again and again, George Bush has announced bold visionary policies--and again and again he has entrusted the execution of those policies to people who do not believe in them or even understand them. This is most conspicuously true in foreign policy, but it has been true in domestic policy as well. The result: the voice is the voice of Reagan, but too often the hands are the hands of George HW Bush.

Or worse. George H. W. Bush made his bad appointments in the name of replacing Reaganite "ideology" with moderate Republican "competence." He didn't live up to his own billing, but you can understand his intentions. But the younger Bush has based his personnel decisions upon a network of personal connections in which competence does not always play the largest part.

The idea that conservatives now see Bush the Younger as even worse than Bush the Elder is quite stunning.

Harriet Miers for the Court

We have the president's pick for the Supreme Court and it's . . .Harriet Miers.

Could this be a less inspired choice? I mean, c'mon, Michael McConnell and Mike Luttig are still out there! Not to mention Edith Jones, Edith Brown Clement, Janice Rogers Brown, etc.

Something else that troubles me a bit is that the future Justice Harriet contributed money to Al Gore, Lloyd Bentsen, and the DNC. That's two Democratic Senators and the central headquarters of perdition!

In Ms. Miers' defense, I might add that the contributions in question were from the 1980's and that she has been more GOP oriented since that time. The donation schedule looks very Texas lawyer-ish and that's what she is.

We'll just have to wait and see. I'm a little worried we're in GOP/Rockefeller country where the country club conservatives rule over us rank and file heart and soul types while speaking comforting words.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Adam-ant And Eve-olutionary

Tomorrow night at sundown begins Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish holiday that celebrates the anniversary (according to tradition) of the emergence of Adam and Eve as sentient beings, exactly 5766 years ago.

In light of that, it seems appropriate to take a moment to express gratitude for the tremendous strides taken in the past year by the movement pressing for recognition of the concept of Intelligent Design.

Their victories have been widely noted, but perhaps more important than those is the fact that the strategy has been successful in "winning even when they lose". By this I am referring to the fact that a great many Evolutionists, in their effort to stave off the onslaught of this new challenge to their orthodoxy, have begun to use the following defense: "Intelligent Design addresses a philosophical question on which Evolution is silent. Evolution addresses a scientific question on which Intelligent Design is silent. Therefore I.D. has no place in the Science classroom."

When they win with that argument they score only a Pyrrhic victory. They are surrendering the main bludgeon that has been used against religion for a century and a half, namely the fact that its central premise is contradicted by Evolution. Think about it.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Republican Spending Taxes Loyalty

Had to write a bit of a pessimistic thing over at American Spectator today.

The Republicans are not losing people because of being racist sexist homophobes as the press would have you believe, but because they are spending like Democrats.

Why should someone fight the stream of vitriol against Republicans in the media and professoriat? Just to run interference for a bunch of guys who will deliver the pork in marginally smaller containers? Nah.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Back to the Existence of Moral Values Beyond the Personal

I looked in on the comments to an earlier post and saw the argument over the existence of morality as more than a subjective being discussed. We've been over this territory, but I think a twist is possible.

This time we'll put the burden on the relativists (or whatever they want to be called): please give your evidence that there is no absolute right or wrong.

Who Can Be President of Baylor University?

Baylor's Board of Regents looked at three finalists for the top job and essentially took a pass. No to Don Powell, head of the FDIC. No to interim pres. Bill Underwood (who withdrew). And apparently no to Linda Livingstone from the Pepperdine school of business. So, here we are back at square one. They made a neat troika of right (Powell), left (Underwood), and middle (Livingstone).

As a constant follower/commentator on the Baylor situation, I read the latest installments of Baylor Truth with great interest. The last two posts are particularly compelling. The first links to a Baylor students blog that chronicles the success of Robert Sloan's policies. The second carries the text of an email from a reader who offers a solution to the current leadership vaccuum: Bring Robert Sloan back to the president's office and admit his resignation was a matter of transitional board instability.

It's not such a far-fetched idea. Sloan is still on campus as the chancellor of the university. He's in his fifties and has years to give.

Another alternative would be to invest the chancellor's office with the presidential powers and make the president more of a chief of operations.

Being the top officer at Baylor during the implementation of an ambitious and ground-breaking vision is not going to be easy going for anyone. Asking a new person to come in and deal with a board that is divided, but improving may not be fair. Asking Robert Sloan to come back and finish what he started may be the only thing that is fair.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Ruffini's Poll Is Back

Last time I mentioned the Ruffini straw poll and urged our readers (the GOP voters, anyway) to participate, I kicked off a monumental pissing contest between stat jocks, stat jock wannabes, and just plain ornery folks.

Nevertheless, I am nothing if not consistent. The poll is back and I urge you to vote.

For the record, I voted Brownback on the first question and Condoleezza Rice on the second.

Baa, Baa Bayh Sheep

Pro-lifers used to have fun (of the pissed off sort) pointing to formerly anti-abortion Democrats who switched positions upon announcing presidential campaigns. You know, Edward Kennedy, Jesse Jackson, Al Gore . . .

Now, we can chart the same transformation when it comes to supporting presidential nominees for cabinet and court jobs.

Senator Evan Bayh (the "moderate" Democrat capable of winning in a GOP state like Indiana) has well-known presidential ambitions. Viewing the Dean-ization of the Democratic party, Bayh made the "principled" decision to vote against Condoleezza Rice for Secretary of State and now is rejecting John Roberts for the Supreme Court.

One suspects Bayh may not have plans to run for Senate again in Indy-land, because this is not his usual position on the political spectrum. Looks like Bayh is making sure Kos and Company know he's already in the bag and is nobody's New Democrat.

(HT: The New American Spectator Blog)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Family Trumps

Certainly my readers will confirm that I am on the record as favoring reproduction. And although I am not into eugenics per se, i.e. wanting only smart and good-looking people to have children, I am certainly into anti-reverse-eugenics. The tendency of smart and good-looking people to have less children than others in recent years has created a reverse eugenics which does not bode well for the future of human society.

Therefore, when an Anthony Quinn has a dozen children, you won't hear me complaining that it's an ex-Zorba-tent sum.

So, although he is a tad smug for comfort, we will grit our teeth and congratulate Mr. Donald Trump on his wife's pregnancy, wishing them a healthy child at the appointed time. This will be his fifth child, 3 with Ivanna, one with Marla and now one with Melania. We wish her well, too, particularly in view of that little clause in the prenup that must boost her take sizeably if she expands the family.

How will the big kids react as a new heir looms? Look at the Murdoch family for pointers. Rupert's two little kiddies with his late-in-life Oriental wife received a little trust fund that sent the older children into a major snit. As Maxwell Smart's nemesis, noted by Hunter below, would say: "Family discord? What was your first crew?"

Commander in Chief Review Now In

Geena Davis joined Al Michaels and John Madden in the booth for yet another silly interruption of the game action last night as ABC attempted to created synergy for Commander in Chief, its new drama about a female president. I got news for you, ABC. The viewers of MNF are not the viewers of a Geena Davis drama.

Anyway, Louis Wittig has a very interesting review of the series pilot at National Review Online. The series is yet another recapitulation of liberal wet dreams about federal power in the hands of a right- (or should I say left-) thinking person. First, we had The American President. Then, The West Wing. Now, The Commander in Chief.

Here's the most interesting part of the review:

Liberals are serious about human rights in this world too. Working out a subplot, Allen’s aides keep reminding her about the Nigeria situation: In accordance with sharia, Nigeria is about to put a woman to death for committing adultery. Allen is concerned.

Throughout, Allen is shown confidently ordering around generals and positioning aircraft carriers (see, this is why stereotypes are bad). And as Commander limps through its 38th minute, she brings the Nigerian ambassador to a Joint Chiefs’ meeting and proceeds to illustrate how the Marines will storm his country if the woman isn’t released immediately.

“I can’t believe the U.S.A. would take such a unilateral action,” the ambassador mumbles.“If you think I’m going to sit by while a woman is executed, tortured, for having sex, you’re sorely mistaken,” retorts Allen. Dare I think it? You go girl.

Dude, did she even go ask the UN?

Living In Cindy

Cindy Sheehan has been arrested by her own contrivance. One supposes that she imagines herself to be the latest paragon of civil disobedience.

On the contrary, says I. Very uncivil behavior, madam. No one has been accorded more attention proportional to your newsworthiness than you have. Your fifteen minutes of fame are up. To the extent that you have made your point, it is made. To the extent that it hasn't, it never will be. Quick, dear, off the stage before (though perhaps it's too late) you go from sideshow to freak show.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Maxwell Smart Is Dead

I just heard that Don Adams (Maxwell Smart of Get Smart) is dead.

All I can think about is my dad imitating one of the scenes from the show:

"Not Craw, CRAW!"

Prior to PC, which really does have its uses, it was considered hilarious to have an Asian villain completely incapable of pronouncing his evil name. And, in fact, it was quite funny.

(He was The Claw, just in case you needed a little help getting up to speed.)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Seek The Peace Of Jerusalem

Here is an article that nobody should miss.

It's written by the guy whose name sounds like mine, P. David Hornik. (I'm Jay David Homnick.) He's a divorced guy from upstate New York who moved to Israel, seems to be about 45 years old (I'm 47) and did not grow up with religious imstruction (while I attended Orthodox Yeshivas). His perspective about life in Israel (and I lived there for three years in my 20s and three more in my 30s) is very acutely observed.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Upbeat Mr. Hewitt

Hugh Hewitt astounded me with his consistent confidence that Bush would beat Kerry more easily than expected.

Here's his latest and my usual pessimism is rebelling:

The presidents' opponents have been declaring him down and out since the fall of '00. Keep the clippings handy for election night '06.

I hope he's right and I'm wrong. I'm expecting an election night more like the disappointment of 1998.

Friday, September 23, 2005

A Running Mate for Hillary

Back in town just in time to hear the ineffable Diane Feinstein do her finest Barbara Boxer imitation, complaining that Judge Roberts failed to pass the Oprah test, to wit, an explanation of his legal doctrine from the perspective of a father, husband, and son and/or eternal victim. Or something. Can she possibly be that dumb? Yes, she faces a reelection campaign next year, but she's effectively a shoo-in, given how very weak the Republican bench is in California, and given the kid gloves with which the media treat her. So what gives? Maybe she really is that dumb, which would explain a lot.

Anyway, this got me to thinking a bit about females in politics and the fair Hillary in particular. Hillary announced that she would vote against Roberts; obviously her vote in favor of the Iraq military campaign has created some nervousness with respect to the leftist base of the Party. So we can expect Hillary to do whatever is needed to keep the base of the Party---the teachers unions, the trial lawyers, the government unions, the abortion crowd, the protectionists, ad nauseam---happy. So I still believe that in the end she will be the Democratic Party nominee for the Presidency in '08.

Let's assume for discussion purposes that I'm correct. Whom will she pick as her running mate? It is clear to me that she could not pick another female. But what man with political aspirations would want to be her running mate? Number twos are just that: second fiddles, and the enormous difficulty faced by VPs and former VPs in terms of getting elected to the Presidency is evidence of that. In other words, it seems to me that any man running with her is going to be---please forgive the crude verbiage---castrated politically. So she might have to opt for some elder statesman. I have no idea whom that might be. But it's going to take some fast talking to convince me that being her running mate, even under the assumption that she wins the election, would be a political winner. And then there is the geographic balance problem, her obvious problems in the south, etc. Sure, she'll find someone. But I wonder if, a la George McGovern and Sargent Shriver in 1972, it will number 23 on her list.

Birth Dearth

We have noted on this blog in the past that birth rates among native-born Europeans are extremely low, and that the United States has been heading in the same direction. In an interesting review of Tim Burton's new film, The Corpse Bride, on Tech Central Station, Pinkerton considers the biological necessity of childbearing, and some of its social consequences, using insights from sociobiology and making reference to the original story on which the film was based:

. . . the ideas that animated the original "Corpse Bride" tale-tellers might animate us, too. Death at a young age doesn't loom over us today, as it did in centuries past. What we must live with instead is in a way even more mysterious and ominous -- the lack of young life.

If Edmund Burke was right -- that society is a compact between the generations; the dead, the living, and the yet to be born -- then something has gone wrong with our society. For two generations now, the world has lived in the erroneous thrall of Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb. Only now, as argued in a spate of important books, do we see that the real problem is not an explosion of people, but rather a dearth of birth. Pat Buchanan, Ben Wattenberg, and Phil Longman -- authors who respectively represent the paleoconservative, neoconservative, and center-left camps -- have all made the case for a return to pro-natalist attitudes in the West. Each author uses the language of politics and social science to express the same primal cry: "Have children! Have them for the sake of the living, and also for the sake of the dead, especially those who could never have their own, even though they wanted to."

No wonder the Right to Life movement continues to flourish. At the most basic level -- at the level of primal needs, and primordial tales -- there's a basic baby homeostasis at work. All those Baptists, Catholics, and others have a feeling, a feeling deep inside, that there aren't enough children, that there aren't enough little feet pattering around. On this issue, at least, God and Darwin are united.

The French government seems to agree. In repsonse to falling birthrates among the native population, the national government is offering additional incentives for the formation of larger families:

The French government has pledged more money for families with three children, in an effort to encourage working women to have more babies.

France already has a generous childcare system, which has resulted in a birth rate of 1.9 children per family, well above the EU average of 1.5.

That term "has resulted" is incorrect, given that France's higher birthrate is a result of its much larger population of Muslim immigrants than is present in other European countries. Nonetheless, the government's policy is significant, as is its stated reasoning, which echoes Pinkerton's TCS article:

"The family has changed," Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, himself a father of three, told a conference on the family.

"But it remains at the very heart of French society. It is a source of joy, of comfort, and a haven for its members. That is why we are announcing measures to help families in their everyday lives."

Of course, the real reason behind the French government's concern for family size is the fact that the nation's declining birth rate (it is below the replacement rate of 2.1 live births per female) makes the country's lavish social security systen entirely unsupportable, a problem that we in the United States, despite our higher rate of population growth (due to immigration) have only recently begun to consider doing anything serious about. The French government realizes that unless upcoming generations of French are much bigger than they have been lately, the Ponzi scheme that nearly every government-run social security system constitutes will lose all public support. Hence their newfound family-friendliness.

Seeing Double

Is this plagiarism? Or merely incompetence?

It looks to me like Article Number 1 is word-for-word identical with Article Number 2. The two articles are attributed to different authors.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

ID-ing My ID Article

Just in case you somehow missed my article about Intelligent Design, the Coast Guard, birds-of-paradise and helicopters, it would probably be civil of me to provide you with the missing link.

"Let the stranger praise you, not your own mouth," said King Solomon, so I'll shut up now. You, on the other hand, should feel free to heap accolades into the Comment box.

Cheaper Fuel = More Fuel Consumed

In his latest Boston Globe column, Jeff Jacoby explains "The Paradox of Fuel Efficiency," as the article's title calls it. Jacoby points out that people have been pushing for the production and use of more-fuel-efficient cars for several decades:

If the vehicles on our roads got more miles to the gallon, we have been told again and again, we could dramatically reduce the amount of oil we depend on -- and from that would flow benefits equally dramatic:

America's foreign policy would be strengthened, it is said, since we would no longer have to appease the unsavory regimes that control most of the world's crude oil. The economy would surge as money now spent on fuel was channeled to more productive uses. Mother Earth would be better off, since less fuel would mean less pollution and less drilling for oil. And at a time of $3-a-gallon gasoline, motorists would have particular reason to rejoice: Higher-mileage cars would need fewer expensive fill-ups.

The Bush administration, Jacoby notes, has proposed new regulations to require increased gas mileage in passenger cars, saying "the plan would save 10 billion gallons of gasoline by 2011." But Jacoby points out the the expected fuel savings will not come, and in fact the opposite will happen:

[The Bush proposal and other such measures] might be worth considering if using fuel more efficiently really would result in less fuel being used. But it won't. It will result in more fuel being used.

If that sounds counterintuitive, think about it this way: Would lowering the price of operating an automobile -- i.e., making driving cheaper -- lead to higher or lower consumption? Higher, of course: The cheaper something is, the more of it we generally want. Cars that run more efficiently make transportation cheaper by getting more miles out of each gallon of gas. Result: more miles driven and more gasoline consumed.

Jacoby points out that the creation of more efficient computers has brought not less use of computers but far more use of them. Just so with passenger cars, the evidence shows:

In The Bottomless Well, a myth-busting new book on energy and how we use it, Peter Huber, a scholar at the Manhattan Institute, and Mark Mills, a physicist and technology expert, acknowledge that this paradox -- ''the more efficient our technology, the more energy we consume" -- strikes many people as heretical. But the numbers bear it out. Thirty years ago, the energy cost of transportation was nine gallons per 100 vehicle miles. Today it is six gallons -- a 33 percent drop. Yet over the same period, the total amount of fuel consumed rose 56 percent -- from 115 billion gallons a year to more than 180 billion gallons.

This ''paradox of efficiency" is as true of cars and computers as of light bulbs, jet turbines, and air conditioners, Huber and Mills write. ''The more efficient they grew, the more of them we built, and the more we used them -- and the more energy they consumed overall."

Both Jacoby and I are drivers of fuel-efficient cars, as it happens, and we both support the quest for increased fuel efficiency. But it is important for all of us to know the real reasons for supporting this particular choice, and to recognize what the real social and economic consequences will be. As Jacoby notes, "fuel-efficient cars do have their advantages. Reducing American dependence on oil just doesn't happen to be one of them."

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

What Do You Call a Conservative Mugged By Reality?

We all remember Irving Kristol's great line:

What do you call a liberal mugged by reality? A conservative.

But I'm already a conservative and I got mugged by reality last night.

Just after dinner there was a knock at the door. A very down on his luck looking African-American man stood there when I opened the door, expecting a package for my son. He explained he was looking for work. I offered to let him wash my car and planned on overpaying him. I told him to meet me in the backyard.

After I brought him a bucket, soap, rags, etc., he asked for a cold drink and to come in and use the bathroom. I was worried about letting him in to use the bathroom because he had a cough and I have a six month old and a three year old. I got him the drink and told him frankly about my concern with contagious illness. He said it was asthma. Didn't sound like asthma to me, so I put him off and went back in the house to consult with my wife about it.

Looking out the window, I could see the man was beginning to wash the car. A flash of blue caught my eye out the side window and I noticed two police officers, one male and one female, walking into my backyard. When I got to the backyard, the man was talking to the cops. I approached and told the officers I had hired this man to wash the car. They explained a neighbor had called. He walked back to the car and began working again, but the officers didn't leave.

The female officer talked on the radio, while the male officer told me I'd made a mistake. He said the odd jobs request was a common tactic for casing a house for later burglary. When I told him the man had asked to come inside, he said that was likely part of the plan. The female officer said something I didn't quite catch and the male officer said, "It's him."

Meanwhile, a third officer walked up. At this point, I noticed all three were wearing bulletproof vests under their clothes. I asked if the man washing my car was wanted for a crime. The radio spoke up again, but I couldn't understand it. One of the officers said the man had a felony warrant, probably for burglary. I half-wondered whether the man would attempt flight or resist arrest.

They approached the man I'd hired and put cuffs on him. He protested, but they said they couldn't take a chance. He asked if he could finish the job. They said no. I felt terrible that he had worked while the police officers waited to hear whether they should arrest him. I told them I wanted to pay him. I offered the money and the policeman put it in the man's pocket. He thanked me. They went off. The whole thing was very quiet and calm.

I stood there feeling like an idiot for possibly putting my family in danger, but my instinct was to give the man a job and try to help him. Had I done the wrong thing? I don't know and still don't.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

SOS: Stuck On Stupid

The great General Honore has coined the ideal phrase to describe the diehard Bush-obsessives: "You're stuck on stupid, Reporter!"

If you have not seen or heard the soundbite of the General delivering that line during today's press conference about evacuation plans in advance of Hurricane Rita, you need to track it down. It is a treasure of our time, not to be missed.

Fiscal Relief from Hurricane Relief

As Hurricane Rita pounds the Florida Keys and heads toward the Gulf Coast just beginning the recovery from the damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina, it is a good time to consider the fiscal implications of Congress's and the Bush administration's handling of disaster relief so far.

It is not a pretty picture.

As noted in a forthcoming article in the October issue of Budget and Tax News (of which this author is senior editor), published by The Heartland Institute, BTN managing editor Steve Stanek notes that Congress and the Bush administration have consistently ignored calls for hurricane relief expenditures to be offset by cuts in spending on other programs, particularly the numerous pork projects passed this year:

"We get strange looks [from fellow Congressmen] for even suggesting that we offset this disaster relief spending with funding from low-priority programs," said Matthew Specht, spokesman for Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who has called for this to be done. "We're a voice crying in the wilderness."

Since Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans while raking across Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama on August 29, the federal government has approved more than $62 billion of relief. Some estimates have put total relief costs at upwards of $300 billion, nearly double the cost of the Iraq war.

Floyd was one of the few members of Congress to vote against the Sept. 8 bill approving President Bush's request for another $51.8 billion. "Congress has the responsibility to cut spending elsewhere if we are going to commit this amount of money," Flake said in a statement after the vote.

Stanek notes that the House leadership killed an amendment calling for spending offsets:

An amendment to the bill to do that was offered by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), a member of the House Committee on Budget and the House Financial Services Committee and chairman of the Budget and Spending Task Force of the Republican Study Committee. The House leadership did not allow the amendment to be considered.

"We're doing our best, but our battles are many and our victories are few," said Mike Walz, Hensarling's press secretary. The Hensarling amendment would have offset the $51.8 billion of hurricane relief with spending cuts across the board over the next five years, with exemptions for entitlement spending, defense, homeland security, and veterans funding.

In announcing his amendment September 8, Hensarling pointed to billions of dollars of dubious spending approved earlier this year by Congress. He argued, "When so many lives have been shattered and relief is so critical, Congress cannot continue to fund projects like the $800,000 outhouse, $1.2 million for panda research, or the $1 million indoor rainforest in Iowa. The fundamental question is who should tighten their belt to pay for this damage, American families or the federal government?"

Democrat leaders have stepped up their criticism of the increasing red ink, though their proposed solution is to raise tax rates, which would do nothing to hold back the expansion of federal power. Critics on the right suggest that cutting pork spending would more than suffice to offset the new expenditures:

[Veronique] de Rugy [a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and Bruce Bartlett, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, both suggested an easy cut would be to remove pork in the recently approved transportation bill.

"That bill has more than $20 billion of pork," Bartlett said. "I've been sending emails saying our response should be to reopen the highway bill and cut spending out of that."

Bartlett noted President Bush started out saying he would veto the transportation bill if it came in at more than $256 billion, and it came in at $295 billion and he signed it anyway.

"If we go back to the president's own veto number, we have most of the $62 billion [in approved disaster relief] right there," Bartlett said.

The pork-laden energy bill also has billions of dollars that could be cut, said Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste.

The federal government uses every situation as an excuse to spend more and control citizens' lives in additional areas and more ways. It is high time for a federal Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

Monday, September 19, 2005

So Who Wants to Be an Anarchist?

A question posed earlier on this blog, probing the possible interpretations of the word 'anarchist' as used by a product of Western civilization circa 2005, took on a different and more personal hue for me this weekend. Hue, saturation, and contrast, to be specific.

My husband's employer dispatched him to New York City for a couple of days last week. He never goes anywhere without his Contax U4R digital camera; it's the sort of object Sidney Reilly might have used to great advantage before the Bolshies executed him in 1918. He spent his small ration of spare time wandering around Manhattan and Brooklyn snapping pictures.

This photo was taken at the corner of Wall and Broad Streets. It is 23 Wall Street, the J.P. Morgan Building, built in 1914.
Wall Street, 2005

He went to that spot as a sort of pilgrimage, in homage to Paul Strand, one of the towering pioneers of 20th C. photography. Strand stood on that spot in 1915; the resulting picture is an icon of New Realism fixed in platinum and potassium oxalate, and one of the most famous images ever printed.

Wall Street, 1915

If you really, really look at this picture, for a few moments you can see the world through the eyes of the people he captured walking down Wall Street. Yes, I know the critical consensus is that the picture captures the shrinking of modern man in the context of his overwhelmingly gargantuan surroundings. I still think it's a photograph overflowing with empathy.

Obviously a few things have been added since 1915. The food vendors and No Parking sign bleat out in color. There is another addition, more subtle, and much older: these pockmarks in the pink Tennessee marble facade. They have been there for 85 years, and were put there by anarchists.

On September 16, 1920, a horse-drawn wagon was pulled up to the sidewalk on the Wall Street side of the Morgan building. Seconds after noon, the wagon exploded. It had been filled with 100 lbs of TNT and 500 lbs. of amateur shrapnel. The sidewalks were crowded with lunchtime pedestrians; accounts of the damage are not exact, but approximately 400 people were injured and between 30 and 40 died. The horse didn't make it either.

Anarchists were immediately suspected, since there had been wave after wave of such violent attacks in the recent past, and the target was such a figurehead of unrepentant capitalism. This suspicion was solidified when circulars were found in a postbox at Cedar and Broadway, proclaiming

Remember we will not tolerate any longer. Free the political prisoners or it will be sure death for all of you. American Anarchists Fighters.

No one was ever arrested in connection with the bombing; decades later historian Paul Avritch fingered Mario Buda, an Italian anarchist and acquaintance of Sacco and Vanzetti, claiming their prosecution was the motive for the attack. This theory remains unsubstantiated.

If you ask most people who went to American public schools after World War II who the "anarchists" were, they'll be able to mumble something incoherent about Sacco and Vanzetti, and how they probably weren't guilty and were executed because of bigotry towards Italian immigrants. Not one in 50 could give you a concrete example of the violence wrought by anarchists between 1870 and 1925; that one might know that President McKinley was assassinated by a self-professed anarchist. In fact, anarchists were responsible for assassinating half a dozen world leaders in the early 1900s, including the Prime Minister of Spain, the President of France, and the King of Italy. Their code of "propoganda by the deed" justified random acts of violence and murder; they believed that only by exploding the old order, literally, could freedom be gained.

Their tactics caused a backlash of anger, not just against anarchy, but against any group or movement that formed their base or lent even tacit support: immigrants, labor agitators, small c communists. Given that, what is the motivation, in 2005, of calling one's self an anarchist? Many of us know modern anarchy only through reading Anarchy, State, and Utopia, Robert Nozick's book length reply to John Rawls's A Theory of Justice. Nozick later backed away from much of this book (and even in his original formulation, he believed that pure anarchy was unachievable, although the barest minimal state that could be contrived was the only one he could endorse). Nevertheless, it remains a philosophical lodestode for the more rigorous type of political libertarian. These folks lack one notable animus of the bomb-throwing anarchists: they don't hate capitalism. In fact, they often call themselves anarcho-capitalists. They celebrate anarchy as the blossoming of enterprise, and in that and most others senses seem to have little to do with the other set of people who call themselves anarchists these days, the anti-globalization Nike-haters, Frankenfood neurotics, tree sitters, and people with "Free Rob Thaxton" bumperstickers.

Why, in the absence of a clear philosophical or tactical similarity, do either of these two groups call themselves "anarchists" ?? I am interested because of the abuse I've taken at times as a supporter of states' rights, which other than pasting a Confederate battle flag in the back of your domestic pickup truck window, is the best way to get yourself called a segregationist bigot these days. It's bad enough having to put up with the baggage when there is a philosophical connection. Why would you do it when there's not?