Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Foreign Affairs

A Special Relationship?

For two centuries the phrase "a healthy, mutual ambivalence" might better have described the actual Anglo-American relationship than did Winston Churchill's famous 1946 plea for a special one.  Nevertheless, the question now is whether new British Prime Minister David Cameron, the Conservative head of a coalition government, will look to strengthen that so-called "special relationship."  

If not--that is, if Cameron prefers to orient his foreign policy away from America and toward a more independent role in exerting influence over troubled Europe, where the Greek government has now begun publicizing the names of tax evaders--should Americans object?  After all, who was the last British prime minister to possess both the will and the means to seriously injure U.S. interests through either indifference or hostility?  Spencer Perceval?
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Cleveland Cavs Fans and 2012

My favorite liberal blogger, Joel Mathis makes a good observation today at his blog, Cup O' Joel.  He notes that Barack Obama--in what may be the sincere pining of a serious sports fan, but is also a seriously dumb move for a President hoping to persuade voters in a swing state next go-around--has pronounced upon the great and nagging LeBron question.  The President wants LeBron James in Chicago.  I bet he does!  But, as Mathis notes, Ohioans have yet another reason to wonder how much Obama wants their votes.

BTW:  About Joel Mathis, I am serious.  Take some time to listen to his joint podcasts with Ben Boychuk over at Infinite Monkeys--Ben is always outstanding, but it is Joel's astute and informed questioning of the conservatives they interview that, in my opinion, always brings out the best in them . . . or not, as the case may be.) 
Categories > Elections


Athens on the Pacific? Modern Problems Meet Ancient Wisdom

Such is the appellation former Buckeye and radio talk show host, Hugh Hewitt, gives to the broken (and broke) state of California.   But if we resemble modern Greece in our profligate spending and mounting debt, do we have a glimmer of hope that we might also recur to an ounce of ancient wisdom? 

Perhaps.  Hewitt notes the race least discussed outside of California (but probably the most important to the nation as a whole):  the contest for California Attorney General which features the talented legal scholar, John Eastman.  Eastman's credentials as a constitutional originalist and formidable litigator extend around the block.  With Eastman in the position of California AG, Hewitt argues, Obamacare will find itself up against a most serious and carefully crafted legal challenge.  Serious conservatives from around the country ought to take note of this race and follow it with interest.
Categories > Elections


What Would We Do Without the AP . . .

. . . to inform us that a "grizzly" is a bear?  (see para. 8)  Do they really think the rest of the country is as hermetically sealed in a bubble as their reporters seem to be?
Categories > Journalism


The "Confrontational" Governor of New Jersey

There are at least two reasons I like Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey:  He's right on almost all the issues, and this doer is also a talker.  See how he responds to a reporter who accuses him of having a "confrontational tone."

Categories > Politics

Men and Women

Congress is in the Toilet

Doubt me?  Here's the proof!  Concern (apparently of a bipartisan nature) abounds on the Hill about the disparity of male to female access to toilets in federal buildings. 
But this is no mere matter of counting commodes.  Discerning the meaning of equality here requires the talents of a Solomon.   According to the Washington Times, Americans here display their endless debate about the meaning of equality in its full glory as they take up the ways in which it relates to the great toilet tribulation:  "Some argued that it means equality of opportunity, as judged by the number of stalls, while others said equality of outcome is the key, which could be measured by the length of lines."  So don't laugh.  This is political philosophy at work.

Of course, an uninformed debate over the meaning of equality in American politics often degenerates into an argument for an equality of misery:  "[T]he National Park Service's outdoor concert venue in Fairfax County, had two men's and two women's restrooms, and men breezed through while women waited in long lines. So one men's room was converted to a women's room and now 'today everyone waits in line.'"

Still, if logic prevails (along with those lines) one must consider that at an outdoor venue there is a strong probability that the men's line will shorten itself with a return to nature--if you follow my meaning.  I wonder what the equality police intend to do about that?
Categories > Men and Women


Kagan's Cocoons

Michael Barone writes an interesting piece today in which he opines that Kagan (like her booster, President Obama) has inhabited and grown used to, life in a world apart from the rest of American society.  As a consequence, "[t]hey bring to public service attitudes that are commonplace in the faculty lounge but not nearly so common in the rest of America."

Though generally played close to the chest, these attitudes cannot help but reveal themselves, eventually.  Consider, for example, their modern professorial approach to disagreement.  Both have acquired (it is not quite right to say that they have "earned") reputations for being conciliatory, civil, and exhibiting great empathy for the views of their ideological opponents in debate.  But in recent months, this view of Obama has been tarnished a bit by some unguarded expressions of frustration, and the consequent dulling of the gleam surrounding him has exposed more than a few chinks in his rhetorical armor. Barone astutely points to Obama's recent delivery of a commencement address in which he attacked and lamented the free expression of ideas via blogs, talk radio (read: Rush) and cable news (read: FOX). Though none were surprised to learn that Obama was not a fan of conservative talk radio, blogs or FOX News, there was a discernible amount of disgust with his inability to "suck it up," as a good coach might say. 

Yet to say that Obama contradicts himself when one compares this speech to his infinite calls for civility is to fail to understand the thinking of the modern professor.  Understanding such people as they understand themselves requires a visit to a cocoon--the university campus--which "far from being open-minded forums of opinion, are the most closed-minded parts of our society, with speech codes and something resembling re-education classes for those who violate them."  University administrators, Barone notes, "seem to believe they have a moral obligation to suppress speech that displeases or offends them."  After all, they are the change that they can believe in. 

Kagan is part and parcel of that world, Barone argues, and her record of banning military recruiters from Harvard because of her view that DADT is intolerable, supports the claim.  And it is likely that she will continue to act (and rule) this way on the bench.  I think Barone is on to something, here.

Jules Crittenden, on the other hand, brings our attention to another kind of cocoon Kagan inhabits: that of the childless.  In examining the bizarre (and, apparently, mostly Left-wing) obsession with Kagan's sexuality (inspired by the recent "controversial" printing of a photograph of her in the WSJ that showed her playing softball--gasp!) Crittenden is not eager to engage in the kind of identity politics that would spend time contemplating whether this photo was an intentional gay slur (huh?!) or celebrating the achievement of a country that can elevate a lesbian to the highest court in the land.  But, as long as the identity politics game is being played, Crittenden makes what seems to me to be a reasonable point:

I'd add that President Obama seems bent on packing the court with people who never had children, and would suggest that if you haven't had your sleep disturbed for years on end; haven't subjugated everything in your life to someone else's interests ... as opposed to subjugating everything to your career interests ... and never changed a diaper except, say, as a boutique experience; if you haven't seen your hopes and dreams grow up, charge off in their own direction and start talking back to you; if you haven't dealt with abuse of authority and human rights issues sometimes encountered in dealings with obtuse school officials, class bullies and town sports leagues; then there's a high risk your understanding of life may be somewhat ... academic.

It's a humbling experience, parenthood. As well as an inspiring one that gives life meaning. It also, as a friend of mine once put it, makes you sane. Even while it drives you crazy. Put another way, it's part of the maturation thing. 

Doesn't the president know any soccer moms who went to a state school?

What Crittenden says about parenthood (and about folks from non-Ivy League schools) rings true with me--particularly because it is flattering to my own circumstances.  Also, it is too clever and delicious not to re-print it here.  On the other hand, I'm not sure that the larger point about the problem of cocoons (be they intellectual or circumstantial)--at least taken by itself--is a fair one. 

Here's the thing: I'd be perfectly happy to take a cocoon dwelling Ivy League, lesbian, non-parent, with a professorial (and even worse, an outright snobbish) attitude if that person also inhabited another kind of cocoon--the one where people go to grow when they take the Constitution as it was written and as it should operate (barring changes wrought through the consent of the governed in the Amendment process) seriously.  Or, as Orrin Hatch is reported to have said through a spokesperson when questioned about rumors that Kagan may be a lesbian (snore), "The most important issue for Senator Hatch is whether she is going to follow the Constitution and the laws of the land or whether she will substitute her own views in their place."

Bingo.  Now let's move on, shall we (?), and discuss the substance of THAT.

Categories > Courts


Defining Judicial Activism Down

As pundits debate the merits of Obama's Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, discussion of "judicial activism" takes center stage.  But the accusations of activism are not all being tossed in Kagan's direction.  What has typically been a nomenclature used by conservatives is now frequently being touted by the Left to attack the "conservative" justices on the Supreme Court.  These criticisms are based on all-too-common distortions of the term's meaning.  (I will leave it up to the reader to determine whether some distort it intentionally in order to mislead the American public, who overwhelmingly oppose judicial activism according to its actual definition...)

Among the erroneous definitions of activism is the idea that it occurs whenever the Court strikes down a law.  For example, MediaMatters attempts to debunk the "myth" that "liberal" judges engage in activism more than "conservative" judges by citing studies showing that conservative judges strike down legislation and regulation more than liberal judges do.  But do we really want judges to uphold all laws, even unconstitutional ones?  Would the Court be "activist" if it struck down a statute that, on its face, invidiously discriminated on the basis of race?

Of course not.  This facile view of activism is inconsistent with the appropriate understanding of the judicial review as eloquently expounded by Chief Justice Marshall in Marbury v. Madison: "If then the courts are to regard the constitution; and the constitution is superior to any ordinary act of the legislature; the constitution, and not such ordinary act, must govern the case to which they both apply."  Courts have a duty to strike down laws that violate the Constitution because the Constitution is supreme.

Judicial activism, rightly understood, occurs when judges make decisions not based on what the Constitution requires, but on their own personal or policy predilections.  Contrary to what MediaMatters and many others think, activism does not refer to judges being active in striking down legislation, but being activist in advancing their own policy agenda through judicial decision-making.

Similarly, when we praise judicial restraint, we do not mean judicial passivism---or, reluctance to overturn a law regardless of whether it violates the Constitution.  We simply mean restraint from allowing one's own personal preferences to guide his judgment in the case. 

Indeed, justices who are truly committed to "judicial restraint" must often cast votes that diverge from their own policy preferences.  Take, for example, Justice Potter Stewart's vote in Griswold v. Connecticut, the case in which the Court declared that the "penumbras" formed by "emanations" of certain guarantees in the Bill of Rights grant a right to the use of contraceptives in marriage.  In his dissent, Justice Stewart explained that he thought the Connecticut law banning contraceptives was "uncommonly silly," and that he opposed it on practical, philosophical, and policy levels.  Nonetheless, he would not vote to overturn it because it did not violate the Constitution. 

All judges, including the next Supreme Court justice, should follow the wise example of Justice Stewart in Griswold, who showed great restraint in concluding: "We are not asked in this case to say whether we think this law is unwise, or even asinine. We are asked to hold that it violates the United States Constitution. And that I cannot do."

Categories > Courts

Shameless Self-Promotion

The Professor and the Dean

Yours truly has an article on Kagan's nomination in today's Washington Times. My argument is that the "inexperience" line of questioning which Republicans are bound to pursue will only prove worthwhile if tied to her actual experience at Harvard Law School - particularly her expulsion of military recruiters.

Never mind that "don't ask, don't tell" is a federal law (the military does not make laws) passed by the Clinton administration and a Democratic Congress (Ms. Kagan worked in the Clinton White House) and that Ms. Kagan continues to esteem highly many of the authors of that policy (reserving her "abhorrence" for young recruiters simply following orders). Rather, focus on her unlawful disobedience of a federal statute, her resort to the courts only as an afterthought and her ultimate decision to relent her tempest-in-a-teapot rebellion only when the Supreme Court (which she hopes to join) unanimously rejected her legal objection to the law in an 8-0 opinion.

Of course, at that time, she was a dean and not a judge. But she was the ultimate role model to her students, leading by example as the dean of a prestigious law school. Her blatant disregard for laws that she found personally displeasing and intellectual satisfaction with legal arguments dismissed by even the most sympathetic judges reflect poorly on the adequacy of her judicial temperament and capacity for unbiased rulings.

I hope you will, as they say in the business, RTWT.


The Irony of the Adversary Culture

After years of Hollywood movies, newspapers, and tv and radio news piling on story after story of corruption and misconduct in government, business, and elsewhere, is it a surprise that Americans don't trust the government to do the right thing, and are skeptical about its ability to run the health care system for the public good, and not for the good of the insiders?
Categories > Politics

Health Care

Addicted by Choice?

James Q. Wilson's a review, in the latest Claremont Review of Books, of the provocative book, Addiction: A Dissorder of Choice, is now online.  A sample:

But if attitudes and sanctions affect drug use, how can we explain the familiar claims that people in drug treatment programs are rarely if ever cured and that "once an addict, always an addict"? The explanation is easy: these claims are not true.

Heyman draws on three major national surveys to show the falsity of the argument that addiction is a disease. The Epidemiological Catchment Area Study (ECA), done in the early 1980s, surveyed 19,000 people. Among those who had become dependent on drugs by age 24, more than half later reported not a single drug-related symptom. By age 37, roughly 75% reported no drug symptom.

The National Comorbidity Survey (NCS), done in the early 1990s and again in the early 2000s, came to the same conclusion: 74% of the people who had been addicts were now in remission. As with the ECA, the recovery rate was much higher than in the case of psychiatric disorders. The National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), done in the early 2000s with more than 43,000 subjects, came to pretty much the same conclusion.

Categories > Health Care


Strom Thurmond: Candidate of the Rising Generation

Maggie Gallagher directs us to a poll that shows young people like socialism more than the rest of the population and just love the progressive label.  That seemed disturbing enough that I followed the link.  She is right, but I found an even more amazing result.  The young are also the group most likely to support states' rights.  In fact they like states'  rights more than they like socialism, capitalism, progressivism or even civil liberties.  Eighty-four percent approve of states' rights and only fourteen percent dissapprove. Now either the Dixiecrats are set to sweep into power, or the poll is telling us that many young people don't know much about the history and policy associations of the labels they are being asked to evaluate. 

Just asking: Was there any word the pollster could have put in front of "rights" that would not have gotten a positive response?

Categories > Politics

Foreign Affairs

David Cameron

The Queen has requested David Cameron to form a new government. He is thus the prime minister of the United Kingdom. But he presides over a hung Parliament, and so must now form a government with the Liberal Democrats. It's sort of like the Republicans needing to form a workable alliance with Ralph Nader and the Green Party. It won't be pretty.

Obama is calling Cameron in order to reach out to the new British government. The Tories have been rather cool toward America, while the Lib Dems border on outright hostility. So, now that Britain is a bit more adversarial and anti-American, perhaps Obama will finally begin treating them with a bit of respect.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Ashbrook Theses

The seniors graduated Saturday.  Although all the theses of all the graduates were fine, we chose the top three Ashbrook Statesmanship Theses for the Parton prize.  In no particular order:  George Alecusan, "The Political Philosophy of John C. Calhoun: An Argument Worth Refuting";  Ryan Brown, "The British Empire in India"; Timothy Haglund, "'Just as the Corybantes Hear the Flutes:' A Reading of Plato's Crito".  Congratulations to these worthy recipients of the Charles E. Parton Award!

Categories > Education


"Soporific" and "Kind of Disturbing"

These are words that David Brooks (who, let's face it, when he's good is brilliant) uses to describe Elena Kagan's writing and, also, her general attitude toward politics, her career, and the advancement of ideas.  Kagan's record of almost painful carefulness does not inspire--though it does seem to impress a certain kind of political actor.  Brooks reminds us that these are the "Organization Kids"--this soul type that Brooks nails as "kind of disturbing." 

Brooks does not really elaborate upon why he finds this ability to suppress the soul to be so disturbing, but he hints at a possible explanation when he notes her deadly-boring style of scholarship--with its cold, hard, lack of any poetical quality.  I think I know what he means and I share his distaste for such prose.  (The prospect of reading opinions authored by Elena Kagan makes it hard to regret not taking up Constitutional Law as a specialty . . .)  But then, too, this attitude he describes is sometimes couched in poetical, even seductive language . . . think of President Obama's many speeches employing the "false choice" rhetoric and appearing--on the surface--to build bridges.  There is something false in them . . . but it is not the choice he speaks of.

So I'd be careful of allowing distaste alone to color my explanation of what's disturbing in these "Organization Kids."  There is something deeper to it, in my view.  If a soul can suppress itself to this degree, is it not reasonable to assume that this same soul would have little problem with the methodical, cock-sure and robot-like suppression of the souls of others?  If it pleased her teachers and her benefactors, I suppose she might be pleased to do it . . .
Categories > Courts


Thinking about the Tory Surge

One of the more promising aspects of the GOP victories in 2000 and 2004 was the surprising coincidence of the fastest growing counties in the country voting for the GOP. These true progressives perhaps sensed that their economic and familial interests were better protected by a conservative party in power. Bush won something like 97 of the fastest 100 growing counties in 2000. Of course, after the routs in 06 and 08 much of this was forgotten. Just ask Sam Tanenhaus, who still defends his little book.

Michael Barone's recent piece on the Britsh elections suggest that this particular dynamic may have been at work and that it bodes well for further Tory gains. He notes the following:

Brown managed to rally his party's ancient base in factory towns and its more recent base among ethnic minorities and immigrants. But the middle-income suburban seats Blair won are almost all gone, and without them the party has no hope of a majority. In southern England and the Midlands, the majority and more prosperous part of the country, Conservatives won 224 parliamentary seats and Labor only 87.

Certain commentators have observed that the country party/court party dynamic may be a better way to think about our current politics. The country party consists of those who are on the inside and stand reasonably prosperous but are largely not in ruling circles of law, finance, business, government, etc. To be sure, philosophical polarities amongst conservatives and liberals remain, but may not be the best way to explain our current situation. The Tory success in the economically surging parts of Britain while Labor cobbled together a coalition of minority voters and denizes of the old manufacturing age, as well as many elderly citizens, can't bode well for that party's future. One wonders if we will see the return of a similar dynamic this fall and in 2012 in America. It seems likely that the parts of America that are growing will not entrust their future to an Obama dominated party. Also of note in the British elections were the Tory failures to improve their standing in some of the wealthies parts of England. This occurred despite slick marketing efforts made by Cameron. They probably would have been better off reaching to the outsiders who voted for the UK Independence Party.

This same dynamic seems obvious in our country. The conservative electorate and the tea partiers seem willing to change a lot of seats, mostly Democrat, but also entrenched GOP incumbents like Sen. Bennett of Utah. The coalition isn't Bob at the hedge fund and Joe the plumber. It is something very different, more stable, and a better trade off.

Categories > Conservatism


Questions for Kagan

The first questions I would have the Senators ask her involve the unamendable parts of the Constitution, as I have noted a couple times before.  But the particular questions I would ask Kagan involve her love of Jane Austen.  She allegedly rereads Pride and Prejudice every year.  Will some educated Republican staffer know that Pride and Prejudice is not a treatise about affirmative action?

I would ask her about love, manners, vulgarity, censorship, and tyranny--the themes explored by Azar Nafisi in her wonderful novel, Reading Lolita in Tehran, which has a most insightful chapter on Austen--see my initial post and follow-up.  In other words, force Kagan to make the case for civilization and explain what causes the coarsening of a culture--and its relationship to the rule of law.  She might also opine why Tocqueville's notion of the legal profession as America's aristocracy is now something of a lawyer joke.  The Republicans by and large muffed their chances with Sotomayor--they should have used her strengths against her, as I argued:  e.g., force her to repudiate racial/ethnic preferences. 

Proper questioning of Kagan will disperse this preposterous fluff about consensus-building (and ability to seduce Justice Kennedy), and we can get to the core problems, summed up in her defiance of federal law, as Bill elaborates below.  The point here is not to defeat her--likely impossible short of some scandal--but to expose the man who nominated her and those who vote to confirm her as failed guardians of liberty who should be defeated.

ADDENDUM:  Paul at Powerline notes that the three women Justices would come from three boroughs of New York. 

Categories > Courts

Impertinent Voters Challenge Their Superiors

Jonathan Entin, a political scientist and law professor at Case Western Reserve University, is dismayed that political opponents to the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court might not let her credentials speak for themselves.  "It says a lot about the state of American political discourse, that some of these folks want to have a serious debate about whether a former dean of the Harvard Law School who enjoys almost universal respect from colleagues of all philosophies and seems to have done an excellent job as Solicitor General is qualified to sit on the Supreme Court," Entin told the Huffington Post.  "Not that I'm surprised, given the degradation of civic culture these days."

Ah, for the good old days before the degradation of the civic culture.  Think back to the gentility with which the Senate considered the nomination to the Supreme Court of Samuel Alito.  That debate saw the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee try to prevent a vote on Alito's nomination with a filibuster, and the party's 2008 nominee join with all but four of the Senate Democrats to vote against Alito.

One thing the rabble who have the nerve to challenge a c.v. as golden as Kagan's might ask is a question posed by Peter Berkowitz in 2006 after the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Congress has the right to withhold federal subsidies from universities whose law schools refuse to permit military recruiters to have the same access to their campus as other recruiters: "How could so many law professors of such high rank and distinction be so wrong about such straightforward issues of constitutional law?"  Elena Kagan, dean of Harvard law school at the time, was one prominent law professor who argued that the schools were justified in refusing to let the branches of the U.S. military recruit on their campus, and still receive uninterrupted and undiminished federal funding, because of the schools' opposition to the "don't ask - don't tell" policy enacted by Congress and implemented by the Pentagon. 

But Kagan was only one of many such professors.  The list includes Laurence Tribe, Walter Dellinger, Harold Koh, and others.  "This dazzling array of eminent law professors," writes Berkowitz, "proved incapable - even after hiring the best Democratic party legal talent money could buy - of advancing a single legal argument persuasive enough to pick off even a single dissent from the four more progressive justices on the court - Souter, Breyer, Ginsburg, and Stevens - or to provoke even a single concurrence expressing a single demurral on a single point of law from Chief Justice Roberts's opinion."

Let's hope that a few senators have the temerity to annoy Prof. Entin and question Ms. Kagan about her involvement in the case of Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Individual Rights.  It would be good to know whether she views the military with a degree of contempt and hostility that is common in Cambridge but would be considered outrageous in most of the country.  It would be good to know, more generally, whether her academic training and credentials have estranged her from the country whose future she may play a decisive role in shaping until the middle of this century.


Judges and Elections

Over at First Things, Rick Garnett writes that "the election of President Obama has turned out to matter a great deal for the future decisions and direction of the Supreme Court."  True enough, but I can imagine a scenario in which Obama loses and we still get two liberal Justices replaced by two liberal Justices.  Even if, by some miracle, McCain had beaten Obama, the Democrats would still have controlled the Senate. It is possible, but not I think plausible, that McCain would invested the huge amount of time and political energy it would have taken to get a Democrat controlled Senate to confirm a Supreme Court pick in the Roberts-Alito mold.  Who imagines McCain sending conservative Supreme Court pick after conservative Supreme Court pick even as the Senate votes them down or filibusters them until at last, worn out, the Senate okays a conservative pick?  I can imagine Huckabee showing such fortitude, but social conservatism (if not exactly constitutionalism) was more at the center of Huckabee's politics.  McCain has a pro-life voting record and he was a solid vote for conservative court nominees, but if McCain had to pick between expending his political energies on a court fight or something to do with foreign policy, does anybody doubt where he would invest his energy?  My best guess is that any Supreme Court picks that got confirmed under a combination of McCain presidency and Democrat controlled Senate would be Anthony Kennedys and the very best, and more likely David Souters.  Which was why, when it became clear that Obama and McCain were going to be the nominees, and that the Democrats would pick up seats in the Senate, I figured it would be a tough four years (at least) when it came to Supreme court vacancies. 
Categories > Courts

Ashbrook Center

No Left Turns Mug Drawing for April

Congratulations to this month's winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:

Robert Ellis
Denver Higley
Philip Paulette
Howard Akin
Sue Kassulke

Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn't win this month, enter May's drawing.

Categories > Ashbrook Center


Monday Morning Musings

First, the economy.  Last Thursday at the office I listened to an alarming lunchtime presentation from two very good economists (Vince Reinhart and Des Lachman) arguing about whether the U.S. and global economy is heading for total catastrophe or merely disaster over the next few years, complete with the Woody Allen gag about hoping we have the wisdom to choose wisely.  Then I went back to my desk to see that the stock market had suddenly plunged 1,000 points, and thought--"Gee, I didn't realize we were webcasting that panel!"  

Now this morning's paper brings news of the $1 trillion bailout of Europe engineered in haste over the weekend.  Wall Street loves bailouts; I note that as of this early morning writing time, stock market futures are way up.  I wonder if the market will hold up all day.  I'm doubtful.

The Supreme Court.  So it's going to be Elena Kagan.  A solid pick from Obama's point of view, and I expect she will be confirmed fairly easily.  I think she may be overrated in her ability to swing Justice Kennedy, and may represent another botched pick in the fullness of time, like Sotomayor.  But it is increasingly apparent that in the Obama administration, the Supreme Court may as well have a sign up: White men need not apply.  What must someone of Cass Sustein's stature think about this state of things?

The Utah Senate.  So Sen. Bob Bennett has been shown the door by the state GOP, with a strong shove from the Tea Partiers, for his heresy of cavorting with Democrats on health care and voting for the TARP program.  Perhaps unfair on both counts, but on the other hand conservatives are right to have lingering disappointment with Republican profligacy in the Bush years, and some new blood is not a bad thing.  What is more noteworthy is the media reaction.  The Bennett ouster is taken as another sign of the dubious dominance of the extreme right wing, don'tchaknow, and obviously bad for America.  This precious line might have more credibility if the media mavens had made the symmetrical point about the left netroots ganging up on Joe Lieberman in 2008 for not toeing the leftist line, or for Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln right now, facing a challenge from the left for her reluctance about the Obama agenda.  If anyone in the MSM made this point about either of those instances I missed it.

Finally, climate.  The Wall Street Journal gives me a nice shout-out in its editorial this morning about the decline in CO2 emissions last year, an artifact of the recession, and goes on to mention the meaning of the Obama/Congressional target of an 80 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by the year 2050:

Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute estimates that the last time U.S. emissions were that low, William Howard Taft was President.  On a per capita basis, the U.S. population of 420 million projected for 2050 would be held to the same overall emissions as the 40 million Americans in 1875.

Now, one coda about this factoid is that I have been pointing this out for more than two years now, both in print and in testimony before several congressional committees.  Normally the climate campaigners challenge any claim or fact contrary to the climate narrative, but no one has challenged my conclusion.  Typically the climate campaigners change the subject.  Must be an inconvenient truth.
Categories > Politics


It's Kagan

Obama's pick to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is, as expected, Solicitor General Elena Kagan. The New York Times and Washington Post already have (generally positive) coverage of the nominee on their sites, including biographies, notable writings and a glimpse of potential nomination issues.

In a break from precedent, Kagan has never been a judge (having withdrawn her name after a lengthy stall by Republicans). Her notable achievements have been as a White House advisor, Harvard Law School dean and present role as solicitor general. She should be considered a "stealth" candidate, as she has produced scant and inconsequential writings by which to determine her jurisprudence.

But, of course, there will be plenty of red meat for the confirmation hearings.

Categories > Courts

Foreign Affairs

Lessons From Britain?

I'm not totally sure what to make of the election results fron Britain in which the Tories just failed to win a majority in Parliament.  I think that one underplayed element is that if parliamentary seats had been reapportioned to account for Tory-leaning, high population growth areas in Southern and Middle England and the population declines in the Labor-leaning industrial North, the Tories would have won a majority and Cameron would be seen as a big winner.  I think.  On the other hand, you would think the main center-right party would be able to win 40% under favorable circumstances against a split center-left opposition.  My main takeaway is that in order to win, a winning agenda (a set of policies that command wide support on matters of high priority to the electorate) is much more important than a tonal change aimed to appeal to the liberal-leaning elements of the upper middle-class and waiting for a favorable environment.


Categories > Foreign Affairs

Political Philosophy

Thought for the Day

How does Montesquieu's thesis about climate and character apply to Michigan? 

Men and Women

Happy Mother's Day!

Mother's Day, as a national day of celebration, is largely the handiwork of Ann Jarvis and her daughter, Anna. The holiday grew from women's peace groups following the Civil War, particularly the gatherings of mothers who had lost children on opposing sides of the war. Julia Ward Howe, perhaps most famous for having penned "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," wrote the "Mother's Day Proclamation" in 1870 as a call to celebrate the burgeoning holiday: 

Arise, then, women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

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