Saturday, October 15, 2005

Movement Economics

Our new, courteous, welcome, and breath-of-fresh-air correspondent Connie Deady writes:

Perhaps maybe the face of small business is changing. I'm a small consulting business (me and hubby). But where I live, lots of small retail businesses have had to close because they can't financially compete with large chains. Maybe it's not bad, but it is changing from ownership to worker.

Personally, I'd love to see more Republican support for small businesses.

Well, I think the GOP support for business in general obscures its support for small business, which employs about half of Americans, if I recall. Big business is actually closer to Hobbes' Leviathan, and elicits support from both parties alike as an easy mark to tap for political cash. (Republicans like it because it's business, Democrats like it because it's big and therefore more easily centralized and controlled. But it's mostly about the cash, and its contributions are self-interestedly fair and balanced.)

If I may imprudently help the other side, a Democrat push for "Buy American" (the current [or any] administration could hardly start an ideological trade war with China) would have great resonance in this here USA. Breaking our addiction to cheap but largely crap consumer goods from foreign shores would make economic sense as well as support our fellow Americans of the working class.

Not much downside, except for screwing with Wal-Mart, where America tends to go on Sundays after church, if not instead of...

A Critique of Pure Reason

Our resident anonymous liberal, Liberal Anonymous (which sounds like a good name for a self-help group), writes to my colleague:

Actions speak louder than words, Hunter, and Scalia has shown himself to be a rank hypocrite whenever he disagrees with the outcome of the law.

Aye, that's our real world, LA. We are all human, and thus vulnerable to rationalizations and therefore hypocrisy---although I personally think Scalia's batting average for fidelity to his judicial philosophy might make him the court's ranking non-hypocrite. To wit: Justice Ginsburg fully allows that Roe is bad law, but won't lift a finger to overturn it, or even tame it.

Do you favor turning your back on essential questions of right and wrong when the law dictates the contrary of your moral sense? I mean, surely a person of your obvious cosmic rectitude would have dissented in the Dred Scott decision.

Or as our current President Bush (two down, one to go) so eloquently put it:

"Another example would be the Dred Scott case, which is where judges, years ago, said that the Constitution allowed slavery because of personal property rights.

That's a personal opinion. That's not what the Constitution says. The Constitution of the United States says we're all—--you know, it doesn't say that..."

Precisely. Ah, the inarticulate speech of the heart: he is the master.

Trusty Slate lefty Tim Noah associates
, and not unfairly, Roe with Scott, and why Bush says he wouldn't appoint someone so reasonable as to agree with the Constitution (at that time) on the latter.

I ask you this not to put you on the spot, LA, but to open the gates of heaven and hell to all on this Miers thing. I mean, it's far easier and quicker to learn someone else's mind than their heart, which is why I think Bush went this way. Peter Singer or FDR? Sensibility or sense? Nietzsche or Jesus? Justice or mercy? Winston Churchill or Viggo Mortensen?

"Be kind. It’s worthwhile to make an effort to learn about other people and figure out what you might have in common with them. If you allow yourself to be somewhat curious — and if you get into the habit of doing that—it’s the first step to being open minded… and realizing that your points of view aren’t totally opposite. I don’t think anyone’s are, in the end. It’s just a question of finding out by spending time with them or giving their ideas a chance to be considered."
---Viggo Mortensen, Artist, Actor, Activist

(Very interested as to what Brother Viggo has found in common with al-Qaeda and the janjaweed, and to hear his plan for Congo, but that should not diminish the universialityness of his sentiment. I'd think we could count him as firmly in Ms. Miers' court. What a nice man. If he had spent 10 years at Harriet Miers' side, spending time with her and giving her ideas a chance to be considered, I'm sure he would have nominated her himself.)

Friday, October 14, 2005

From Blog King to Waterboy

Oh, Hugh, now you're just getting a little too sensitive:

On Miers' side to date: Ken Starr, Lino Gralia, Thomas Sowell, James Dobson, Jay Sekulow, Marvin Olasky, Chuck Colson, Michael Medved, William Rusher, R. Emmett Tyrrell and of course Fred Barnes. Against her: The Corner, Tucker Carlson, Bill Kristol, Robert Bork, Mark Levin, George Will, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Michael Savage, and Charles Krauthhammer. I like those odds.

Oh, yes. President Bush thinks she'll make a fine Associate Justice. A strong case allows the weak case as much time as it wants. A weak case shouts down its opposite, and refuses to engage.

Hauling water for Bush on Miers has made Hugh Hewitt weary. First, he puts R. Emmett Tyrrell in the Miers camp when Tyrrell scarcely declared a side. Instead, he noted the ugliness and uselessness of fighting over something that is going to happen. He also said conservatives have every right to be disappointed with the choice. Hey, if that's what counts as support, then the thinness of the fabric is starting to show.

Second, Hewitt declares the anti-Miers crowd has a weak case and is shouting down the "stronger" case for Miers. We've heard the case for Miers, haven't we? Trust the president. Trust the president. And oh, by the way, trust the president. On the other hand, the critics of the nomination have examined her record, her writings, and her resume' and have concluded there are many better options. That doesn't exactly qualify as shouting down a stronger case.Give it up, Hugh. You've gone from "clutch" to just plain "clutching."

Dim Bulbs, Big City

(If you can't tell that the following piece is in tribute to Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerny, you probably would have more fun reading the obituaries.)

You open your eyes on a world shooting piercing rays of angry light through the gray. You turn over and fall off the bed into a damp pool of unidentifiable detritus from last night's romp. You stagger upright and your knee goes from twinge to jolt in a second flat.

You stare into the bathroom mirror and see a perfect zit on your nose, too small to squeeze but too big to ignore. You shave like a John Deere contraption hacking through the underbrush and when the simian quality is cleared, a pair of scowling jowls are revealed.

You kick the dog on the way to the kitchen and all you hear behind you is a whimper and then a wheeze. You press a mess of buttons on the percolator for some exotic Italian coffee but all you get is some Spanish plain - after the rain fell mainly on it and turned it into mud. You crack an egg for scrambling but it explodes out of the shell onto the counter and then slithers - phloop! - onto the floor.

You sit down at the blasted table to read the bloody morning paper. You're tired of your own problems and very receptive to learning the misery of others. You turn to the society page and you see that Jay McInerney has just begun his third marriage - to heiress Ann Hearst.

You take your Ray-Ban sunglasses and stomp up and down on them until no sliver exceeds the size of a mustard seed. You grab some fresh-baked bread and squeeze it into Silly Putty, then fling projectiles at the door of the microwave. Life goes on.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Send Andy and Karen on a Junket. Bring in Peggy

Peggy Noonan knows just how the President can get out of this mess.

Let's hope he'll listen, because the dynamic has become unwinnable. Every reassurance to the right bounces off like teflon because the Pres. ripped his pants insincerely calling them sexist and elitist and besides they've been Soutered, Stevensed, Warrened, Brennaned, etc. ad infinitum. At the same time those reassurances alienate the left.

There are no good moves remaining. The nomination is sunk unless pushed through via unseen coercion and sheer cussedness, which will please exactly no one and create a bunker mentality in the White House that will last a very long three years.

The Difference between Borking and Getting Miered

The gang at NRO's The Corner has come up with the multiple meanings of "Getting Miered":

1. Good --

To put your own allies in the most untenable position possible based upon exceptionally bad decsion making.

2. Better --

While steadlily going in reverse in the driveway of your own home, intentionally abruptly pressing gas pedal as to crash into garage door for no apparent reason.

3. Best --

Getting used to everyone hating you except your core supporters and thinking what the hell, it'd be cool to see what it's like to have everyone hate you at same time.

More Mendacious Lefty BullSputum

The same kind of lame crap we've been getting in Democrat rhetoric for decades is served up fresh by John Kerry:

“I can’t find anything in any religion anywhere, I certainly cannot find anything in the three-year ministry of Jesus Christ, that says you ought to take health care away from poor children or money away from the poorest people in the country to give it to the wealthiest people in the nation.”

Kerry made the statement to a Democrat women's group in Iowa.

What I would love is for any of the lefty-lurkers at Reform Club (well-loved, of course) to defend Kerry's statement. Exactly how does this transfer take place? What program takes health care and money from the poor and shovels it into the accounts of the wealthy? I haven't heard of it or seen it debated on Capitol Hill. It must have been covered extensively. I mean, it sounds so terrible.

Is this just willful mendacity?

This May Be the Final Stroke . . .

Given that we host some pretty serious writers on this blog our internal dissent over Harriet Miers may come to an end as you read this Southern Appeal post by Francis Beckwith quoting David Brooks quoting Harriet Miers (hot damn, that's writing!).

I reproduce the post below:

This is painful to read - Harriet Miers in her own words, as documented by David Brooks.

The following appeared in David Brooks' column in this morning's New York Times:

....In the early 90's, while [Miers] was president of the Texas bar association, Miers wrote a column called ''President's Opinion'' for The Texas Bar Journal. It is the largest body of public writing we have from her, and sad to say, the quality of thought and writing doesn't even rise to the level of pedestrian.

Of course, we have to make allowances for the fact that the first job of any association president is to not offend her members. Still, nothing excuses sentences like this:

''More and more, the intractable problems in our society have one answer: broad-based intolerance of unacceptable conditions and a commitment by many to fix problems.''

Or this: ''We must end collective acceptance of inappropriate conduct and increase education in professionalism.''

Or this: ''When consensus of diverse leadership can be achieved on issues of importance, the greatest impact can be achieved.''

Or passages like this:

''An organization must also implement programs to fulfill strategies established through its goals and mission. Methods for evaluation of these strategies are a necessity. With the framework of mission, goals, strategies, programs, and methods for evaluation in place, a meaningful budgeting process can begin.''

Or, finally, this: ''We have to understand and appreciate that achieving justice for all is in jeopardy before a call to arms to assist in obtaining support for the justice system will be effective. Achieving the necessary understanding and appreciation of why the challenge is so important, we can then turn to the task of providing the much needed support.''

I don't know if by mere quotation I can fully convey the relentless march of vapid abstractions that mark Miers's prose. Nearly every idea is vague and depersonalized. Nearly every debatable point is elided. It's not that Miers didn't attempt to tackle interesting subjects. She wrote about unequal access to the justice system, about the underrepresentation of minorities in the law and about whether pro bono work should be mandatory. But she presents no arguments or ideas, except the repetition of the bromide that bad things can be eliminated if people of good will come together to eliminate bad things.

Or as she puts it, ''There is always a necessity to tend to a myriad of responsibilities on a number of cases as well as matters not directly related to the practice of law.''

And yet, ''Disciplining ourselves to provide the opportunity for thought and analysis has to rise again to a high priority.''

Throw aside ideology. Surely the threshold skill required of a Supreme Court justice is the ability to write clearly and argue incisively. Miers's columns provide no evidence of that.


The Babe Theory Part III

Sorry, couldn't resist.

(Credit: Map Books 4 U)

What, Me Worry?

The intensely negative reaction of some of my Reform Club colleagues in response to the Harriet Miers nomination certainly gives me cause to pause and think. My position, as our readers are well aware, has been one of rather blithe unconcern. Hunter Baker, Esq., describes it correctly as follows:

We've had S.T. play the "she'll vote fine" card and Tom urge tolerance in light of core values the president may be observing and those are good things to say. I count them better men than I for holding their water with so much less volatility.

I suppose that I should make it clear that I do not for a moment imagine that Ms. Miers is the "most qualified" person possible to name to the Court. (I also must admit that I could not begin to guess who is the person most qualified to do so.) I think it a misstep on President Bush's part to expect his fellow Republicans to "take it on faith" that Miers would suit their purposes if she takes a seat on the Court. When I heard the news of Bush's nomination, I said, "Who?" exactly like just about everybody else.

Yet, as mentioned earlier, I have found it very difficult to see precisely what there is to worry about here. If, as seems perfectly evident, Miers will provide a solid strict-constructionist vote on the Court, she should be exactly what Republicans have been calling for over the past couple of decades.

Perhaps this is a matter of personal temperament. To me, outcomes are everything, and any way of getting there is fine with me. It's just the way I'm wired. And as Hunter suggests, I haven't yet seen a problem with the ultimate outcome here, and hence don't see any need to get upset about the situation—yet.

But the world also needs people who are concerned about processes, and that is why I cannot and do not fault President Bush's Republican opponents on this matter for feeling uneasy. They are worried about the message this nomination sends (or fails to send) about the role of judicial philosophy in American governance, and although I think their worries are misplaced in the present case, I recognize the value of such concerns and the importance of the debate.

I think that Fred Barnes's article today on the Weekly Standard website hits just the right tone and reflects the same considerations I have been writing about. Barnes concedes that those on the Right who are angry with Bush for this nomination have valid concerns. Nonetheless, Barnes says, Miers has yet to testify before the Senate, and that is the point at which we will see what she is made of. Until then, some grumbling and suspicion are understandable, but the sense of betrayal and horror many on the Right have displayed is difficult for us goal-oriented types to fathom. Hence, at the risk of further angering some of his friends, Barnes concludes that a bit of forbearance would have worked better for those on the Right who are concerned about the role of the judiciary in American life:

My conclusion is: Bush supporters who were angry over Miers should have waited. That's the bottom line. Rather than bellow that Miers isn't qualified and won't turn the Court to the right, they should have

given her a chance to prove her conservatism at the hearings. They owed Bush at least that much. Of course it's not too late for Miers, in her testimony, to change their minds. But my fear is that the rift the Miers nomination opened between Bush and his (mostly conservative) followers will be slow to heal. It shouldn't have been this way.

Barnes is correct: it shouldn't have been this way. Yes, President Bush made it possible by nominating Harriet Miers, which now appears to have been a stupid move from a political standpoint—but his critics on the right share at least equal resposibility for this disagreement. The President's critics on the right complain that Bush has been wrong to expect them to "take it on faith" that Miers will serve the purposes they wish to see achieved on the Court. Yet could not the President equally complain that his critics on the Right have broken faith with him by suddenly asserting the importance of process over results?

Sometimes we all have to stand back, take a deep breath, and remind ourselves of what the real goal is.

Evangelicals Aren't Identity Voters

I have no idea why Hugh Hewitt has attached his significant credibility to defending the Miers nomination no matter how weak the arguments he has to serve.

First of all, Mark Levin, who was once chief of staff to the Attorney General, challenged Hugh on the exalted significance he attaches to the White House counsel office, where Hugh once worked and which Miers currently heads. Specifically Levin said, "Sorry, Hugh. They're not considered the Constitutional engine that runs the government."

Second, Hewitt continues his absurd notion that the resistance to Miers will somehow do massive damage to evangelical support of the conservative movement. After Howard Fineman suggested (as have several of us at SA) that a GOP primary candidate would be well-advised to vote against a Miers confirmation, Hewitt said,

"That is simply wrong. To vote against Miers because the Bos-Wash Axis of Elitism is against her is not the way to gain Evangelical favor. The opposite, in fact."

Evangelicals are not identity-voters. If they were, Ronald Reagan would never have beaten Jimmy Carter, an established evangelical Christian at the time. Evangelicals vote issues. When it comes to the court, the issue is whether it will be empowered to settle all disputes over sex, marriage, and reproduction. They have been sorely disappointed with several nominees and are quite unlikely to lash out at those who complain Harriet Miers' judicial philosophy is unknown and untested.Contra Hewitt, conservative evangelicals are going to act a lot more like Missourians than bloc identity voters. Show us, baby. We ain't budgin' till you do.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Art (If Any) of Popular Music

In the current issue of the Weekly Standard, Sean Curnyn provides a very interesting review of rock music critic Greil Marcus's new book on Bob Dylan, Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads. Judging by Curnyn's review, Marcus's book looks about as silly as his previous writings, which would make it very risible indeed. The reason for the absurdity of Marcus's work is its relentless fulfillment of a classic characteristic of comedy: exaggeration. In Marcus's case, he exaggerates the literary importance of the works he considers (while usually showing little real knowledge of music). This is true of all too many rock critics, especially those associated with Rolling Stone magazine over the years.

I see two reasons for this great distance between reach and grasp. One is the fact that rock critics are so intent on creating intellectual respectability for this popular art form that they love (and they see intellectual respectability as residing largely in the words of the songs). They love Elvis, the Beatles, Dylan, Elvis Costello, U2, Public Enemy, Nirvana, Alicia Keys, and whatever, and they want people to understand that this is not mind-rotting, time-wasting nonsense but is in fact really good stuff—art even. This desire is nothing of which to be ashamed: critics throughout the ages have done exactly that, from Aristotle's attempt to show the value of stage tragedies, in the Poetics, to the efforts of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English novelists and critics to afford some respectability to that brash, popular, low-class substitute for poetry and stage drama, the novel.

Rock music critics, however, are hampered by an additional problem: a lack of a real definition for the art form they are writing about. Rock music is an olio, an amalgam of several different forms of music, and popular music has never really been defined as an art form and analyzed as something discrete from other music. It has never had its Poetics or The Art of Fiction.

Hence, critics tend to praise in their favorite music the things that they like the most in life itself and that they think will bring the most respectability among the music's audience. For most rock critics this involves notions such as passion, authenticity, intensity, surface originality (but absolute, fundamental orthodoxy to a particular mindset perhaps best described as hedonistic materialism), occasional surprises (but not much musical complexity), personal drama, contemporary relevance, emotional expressiveness, and the like. (Yes, these critics are products of the last half of the twentieth century and hence a bit kooky and unmoored.) Musical works that express these characteristics are seen as good, and those that do not do so sufficiently are seen as bad.

You see the problem, of course. Passion, authenticity, intensity, surface originality, contemporary relevance, emotional expressiveness, and the like are very good things in their place, but they do not compose a coherent structure or model by which things may be tested and compared to one another. They are all too easily turned into subjective matters with no real standards of achievement that can apply to the entire body of works to be considered. In addition, they entirely lack intellectual content and hence cannot convey respectability in that realm.

I'll write more on this subject in the coming weeks, but to get the ball rolling, I will hazard a definition of popular music, one that includes all that is pop music and excludes what is not it. Here it is:

Pop music takes the form of dramatic poetry set to music.

A few notes:

One, I do not intend this definition to suggest that pop music lyrics are poetry. It takes the form of dramatic poetry, which is something a bit different from actually being dramatic poetry. Let's be realistic: pop music lyrics simply are not poetry. Some song lyrics can be quite poetic, but they are almost never true poetry, by any classically defensible definition. Read the song lyrics of the greatest lyricists, whomever you would choose, and then compare them to even middle-level poetry, and you will see this truth starkly revealed. (Note that this definition does not apply to opera librettos. The latter are poetic dramas, as opposed to dramatic poety, and can be classified as either drama or poetry or both. Operas are basically narrative in form, whereas pop music concentrates on presentation of character, particularly in moments of crisis.)

Two, pop music lyrics are dramatic, in that they typically present the thoughts and feelings of a character playing out over the course of the song. That is, they are strongly allied to performance. Even those songs that seem to take the form of a personal essay, like so many of Bob Dylan's songs, are actually brief dramas.

Third, pop music is usually much briefer than poetic drama, in deference to the form's emphasis on moments of crisis.

Fourth, the music in pop music likewise tends to serve the creation of drama.

Fifth, pop music can convey thoughts, but that is not what it does best. It is most effective at conveying motives and drama—the manifestations of human character.

Sixth, the creation of drama and expression of human character in both lyrics and music has a logic to it that can be identified and codified into principles that allow comparison and reasonably objective analysis of pop music to the extent that such things are possible with any art form.

As noted earlier, I'll write more about this in future, but I offer this definition as a way to begin the process of establishing some standards by which to analyze and judge popular music in a rather more objective way.

Miered in the Slough of Despond

Hunter is sounding like a man who can't take much more of this. He's obviously not looking at the nomination through the lens of self-interest. This Miers kerfuffle is the biggest gift to hit the right-wing blogosphere since Rathergate. It's such a complete and utter disaster, there's really nothing to do but try to get some laughs and traffic out of it.

Miers is a homonym of mires.
Mire is a synonym of swamp.
Other synonyms of swamp are:
(my favorite)
The Miers nomination is a dismal morass. QED.

If you were looking for something that was actually clever and funny, you should visit Dylan over at Still Angry, where George and Harriet are given the Mark Antony treatment and a chorus of bloggers including Bainbridge, Patterico, and Feddie from Southern Appeal play supporting roles. It is the funniest thing I've read in days, and when Dylan declaims

I come not, friends, to steal away your hearts: I am no orator, as Bush is.

my coffee went four different directions. Dylan tops himself in his own comments box, however, when he explains

I'm a Texas A&M grad with a University of Houston J.D., so I know an underqualified Texas legal hack when I see one.


Language, Mr. Baker, Language

I need this Harriet Miers thing to go away.

My reflections on Bush have nearly reached the pitch blackness of the worst moments of the Clinton era when he pled for an end to the Monica story because he needed to be about the business of the American people, as though there was a room somewhere that required his steady hand on the controls.

At least Bush can claim he's been distracted by the extraordinary challenge of Iraq.

But it's not good enough, not nearly. I'd love to hear from the other RC'ers on this question, but I do believe the Miers nomination is the biggest political <expletives deleted> screw-up (the replacement term) I have ever seen in my lengthening life.

We've had S.T. play the "she'll vote fine" card and Tom urge tolerance in light of core values the president may be observing and those are good things to say. I count them better men than I for holding their water with so much less volatility.

But all of this ignores the fact that there has been a conservative legal movement going strong for about twenty years now. It has certain identifiable members. Resume's from that group look a certain way. They are a lot like Bork except more diplomatic and more careful. Bush was very definitely understood to be referring to this group of people when he said he wanted originalists like Scalia and Thomas.

Many members of this group are quite well-accomplished as academics, jurists, or both. The expectation has been building for this entire period, really longer than twenty years, that when we had both the White House and the Senate, we would nominate these people and WIN.

For the President to choose any other course of action is almost willfully dense or offensive. To compound the offense by claiming he selected the most-qualified person available is insulting. To the extent men I admire, like James Dobson and Chuck Colson, seconded Bush in this choice I can only imagine that they found it difficult to oppose a personal request from the President when he offered his word of honor.

For the White House to expect the controversy would blow over in 48 hours displays the same kind of tone-deafness that utterly failed to prepare the American people for the size and duration of the action in Iraq.

There is no other way out than to start over. The President is picking Hugo Black over Learned Hand and that is just not the way to do things (forgive me for an illustration that may not resonate with non-legal types). It isn't fair to the people who have prepared for these opportunities. It isn't fair to Harriet Miers. It boggles my mind that she didn't refuse him if he brought up the idea.

What's going on is more of the old LBJ, Bull----, down-home politics and that just isn't the way you handle the court. If Bill Clinton can nominate and confirm a former ACLU bigwig like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then I dare say we need not do less when our opportunities arise.

Call time out, Mr. President. Step back from the plate. Clear your head. Find an honorable way to start over. Then, swing away.

Conspiracy Theory

Although I don't buy conspiracy theories most of the time, that doesn't mean I don't think of them. Here's the latest:

1. Peggy Noonan and others have complained the Bushes and Clintons are unhealthily chummy.

2. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that the Bushes have a deal with the Clintons to put Hillary in the White House in 2008.

3. At the very moment Clinton FBI Head Louis Freeh releases his book blasting the Clintons for their terrible management of law enforcement/terrorism, President Bush nominates Harriet Miers.

4. The Miers controversy sucks all the air out of the press and the Freeh book gets about 10% of the publicity it might ordinarily have gotten.

5. BUSHCLINTON triumphs again!!!!

Bwwwuh-HAHA! Bwwwuh-HAHA!!!!

Oh, Jay Is Guilty Again

So you have built up an appetite (you remember the Seinfeld dialogue... Jerry: George, do you ever yearn?; George: I crave, I crave incessantly, but I don't yearn...) for an article by Jay Homnick, and who can blame you?

It's not my way to deny my devotees their wishes. Here it is.

What is it about? About 800 words. On what subject? Harriet Miers - what else is there?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Desperate Assertions by Team Bush

I've just read a transcript of the Today show interview between Matt Lauer and President Bush and wife (forgive me for not linking).

What has left me more appalled than ever are the terrible arguments made in favor of Ms. Miers by those who love her most for the position of Supreme Court Justice. Here are the key assertions made by the Bushes this morning:

1. "Harriet Miers is the single most qualified candidate for the nomination."

Ulp, urrrk . . . I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. I mean, did anybody notify the the Guinness Book people? I think Bush just broke the record for least plausible political statement set by Bill Clinton with his thing about abortion being "safe, legal, and RARE."

2. "The conservative opposition to Ms. Miers is likely sexist in nature."

Is there any way to respond to this with a straight face? Does anybody believe that a Priscilla Owen or Edith Jones nomination would have aroused the atomic opposition of legal conservatives? Noooooooooooooooooo.

Meanwhile, the normally very astute Hugh Hewitt keeps saying, "Trust the President. He has his reasons. He knows her. Trust him." In Hewitt's view, that wascally Bush is going to outfox the Dems again.

I'm looking at things a bit differently. Remember Bush 41? He made a deal with the Democrats on tax increases and destroyed his presidency politically. That brings us to the third assertion in the interview:

3. "I listened to people who said it's time to bring in someone from outside the judiciary."

Who might have been saying that? I'm guessing Dems and maybe RINO's. The Harry Reid "delighted" response was a bit of a dead give-away. Thus, instead of doing the Reagan thing, Bush is doing just like dear-old Dad and is making unhelpful deals with the other team that will destroy him.

What I'm saying is that Harriet Miers is "No New Taxes" all over again. (If Bush has learned anything, it seems to be "wait until the second term to piss off the base.")

This little bit of compromise is particularly damaging because Bush's bond with the conservative movement has involved a huge helping of "Trust me."

Given the uncertain status of the war in Iraq and a bloated federal government, I'm fresh out of trust. What I needed was a slam-dunk, not another relationship test.

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.