Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Plame leak

These are a few more interesting paragraphs from Time about the Valerie Plame issue, and who knew what when. What is somewhat more clear, as John Podhoretz points out, is that this new info seems to indicate that the folks at State (inlcuding Powell and Armitage) knew about Plame about two weeks before the infamous Wilson NY Times op ed (as did Walter Pincus of the Washington Post and other reporters), and, therefore, contrary to what Time thinks, this actually increases the chances that Rove is telling the truth (that he learned her identity from a reporter) and makes it more likely that the original source was (if not Wilson) than someone at State, which was leaking like a sieve.

More arrests in the UK

Six more arrests in the UK. "The arrests bring to 18 the number of people held in connection to the July 21 attacks, including the four suspected would-be bombers." Here is the AP story on the same. And, according the London Times:

A third Islamist terror cell is planning multiple suicide bomb attacks against Tube trains and other “soft” targets in central London, security sources have revealed.

Intelligence about a cell with access to explosives and plans to unleash a “third wave” of attacks was the trigger for last Thursday’s unprecedented security exercise. The operation saw 6,000 police, many armed, patrolling across London.

Senior police officers say that there was “specific” intelligence from several sources that an attack was planned for that day. The disclosure contradicts official statements by Scotland Yard that Thursday’s security exercise — the biggest since the second world war — was simply a precaution aimed at reassuring the public.

Vietnam Book Update

In the text and discussion thread a few weeks about following the death of William Westmoreland, I recommended Lewis Sorley’s book A Better War, but demurred that Mac Owens should have the last word about Sorley and Vietnam books in general.

Comes now Mac to the rescue, with a review of Sorley’s follow up work on the same subject, which comes to the same conclusion I proposed: Creighton Abrams very nearly had the Vietnam War won by the early 1970s.

Feinstein a centrist?

Give me a break! This article portrays Dianne Feinstein as a "centrist" or "moderate," called to speak for American women in the Roberts confirmation hearings. The Americans for Democratic Action (p. 14 of the pdf) don’t think so, embracing her as a full-throated liberal: her ADA score was 100 in 2004. (To be sure, her score in previous years was lower.) Here’s a more comprehensive compendium of Feinstein ratings, searchable by group and topic. The preponderance of the evidence suggests that she has moved to the left over the past few years.

African Aid

I thought this was an amazing admission for an MSM article on the problem with African aid. Of course, the economist pointing out the problem is from an African think tank--so I guess he carries more weight than conservatives in this country. But I fear what is going on here may be something more--a damned if you do and damned if you don’t scenario for Bush. Since it’s fairly well known now that Bush has given more aid to Africa than any president in recent memory, are they setting him up to be criticized for this as well?

The London arrests

A London Times report on the arrest of the two terrorists includes the following (Thanks to The Corner):

Inside was Muktar SaidIbrahim, 27, who is suspected of trying to detonate a nail bomb on a bus, and Ramzi Mohammad, the failed Oval bomber.

Police commanders realised that they could not risk a long stand-off. Terrorists in Madrid blew themselves up when police stormed the building.

Officers called both men by their first names but repeatedly warned them: “You must do as we say.” After a two-hour stand-off both gave up without a fight.

A witness said that they heard one of the men say: “I’ve got rights.”

Frist on stem cells

Here’s the WaPo story. Here’s Frist’s explanation of his shift. Eric Cohen and William Kristol (those religious fundamentalist Luddites) offer a compelling response.

When zoning disputes go wrong

This can happen. The accompanying slide show is also entertaining, especially if you happen to be a University of Florida fan.

For the record, my house, about five miles from this place, resembles neither it nor the palatial abodes next to it.

Bombers caught

ABC News reports that raids in London and Rome
rounded up the last of the four suspected attackers from the failed July 21 transit bombings in Britain. Rebeccah Ramey has a few thoughts on the London bombings.

Update: Here is a bit more from the BBC.

Time to Get Serious About Sex Offenders

Yet another example here of what happens when liberal federal judges are asked to deal with any question that requires common sense. Michael Mullicane, a high risk, repeat sex-offender who was found guilty of child molestation, sodomy and oral copulation with minors served only 8 years of a 15 year prison sentence in California. He then moved to Florida where he was soon convicted of distributing child pornography over the Internet and sentenced to only 41 months in prison and 3 years of supervised parole. In October of 1999 he was permitted by a federal judge to return to the scene of his original crimes--Glendora, California--where he has lived with his parents in neighborhood full of children and just a couple blocks from the high school. Glendora police did everything they could within the limits imposed by federal courts--including posting flyers warning local parents of his presence in the community and keeping him under surveillance.

Even so, it appears that Mr. Mullicane has struck again and violated another child. Of course, no one is surprised but there is not near enough outrage. If such "people" are to be allowed to continue drawing breath (and I see no reason why they should) why do we persist in this madness of allowing them to return to polite society? It is obvious that the first offense of this nature should carry with it a life sentence. We don’t allow lions and tigers to walk around on the loose in our cities and towns. These predators need even stronger cages.

Economy grows, but not in Europe

The U.S. economy came in at "a chipper 3.4 percent annual growth rate in the second quarter, fresh evidence the country’s business climate is healthy despite surging energy costs." In the first quarter the economy grew at 3.8 percent.

Update: USA unemployment is at 5%, the lowest since September, 2001. The unemployment in France fell to 10.1% (from 10.2%). For the 12 country Euro region, unemployment is at 8.8%, and the economic growth was "dissapointing" at 1.3% (they had expected 1.6% in April).

The baby hippo and the old tortoise

I think this is sweet.
"A baby-hippopotamus that survived the tsumani waves on the Kenyan coast has formed a strong bond with a giant male century-old tortoise, in an animal facility in the port city of Mombasa." Nice photo. (Thanks to Martin Hoke).

Du Bois and Booker T. Washington

Mark Bauerlein writes on the personal background to the later dispute between W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington for the Wilson Quarterly. Readable and concise. For an attempt to re-evaluate Booker T. Washington see my chapter, "Booker T. Washington and the "Severe American Cruciable," in History of American Political Thought, edited by Bryan-Paul Frost and Jeffrey Sikkenga.

Votes on Supremes

Ken Rudin at NPR has a list of the final confirmation votes for Supreme Court Justices since 1971.

Roberts round-up

A number of female Democratic Senators announced that there is an abortion litmus test, though HRC was more politic:

"I share the concerns of my colleagues," Mrs. Clinton said. But she added: "I am going to wait and hear the answers at the Judiciary Committee," adding: "We’re speculating. I’m not going to be speculating."

Conspicuous by her absence from the podium was
Mary Landrieu, who said, "I was so pleased to meet such an outstanding nominee."

This LAT article suggests that Roberts’s work in the Solicitor General’s office may not be privileged, based upon a lawsuit filed and won by Ken Starr during the Whitewater investigations. I think the reporter gets it wrong. Here’s what the LAT says the Appeals Court said:

"We believe the strong public interest in honest government and in exposing wrongdoing by public officials would be ill-served by recognition of a governmental attorney-client privilege" when prosecutors or congressional investigators are seeking information, the U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis said. "Even if we consider a congressional investigation to be an adversarial proceeding, the only harm that could come to the White House as a result of such an investigation is a political harm."

Yes, if a prosecutor or Congressional committee were investigating possible wrong-doing, privilege wouldn’t shield it. This goes back to
U.S. v. Nixon, at least with respect to executive privilege. Here’s the entire passage from the opinion that the LAT reporter edited to make his point:

We believe the strong public interest in honest government and in exposing wrongdoing by public officials would be ill-served by recognition of a governmental attorney-client privilege applicable in criminal proceedings inquiring into the actions of public officials. We also believe that to allow any part of the federal government to use its in-house attorneys as a shield against the production of information relevant to a federal criminal investigation would represent a gross misuse of public assets.

I supplied the emphasis to make it clear that the context of the Court’s recognition of the abridgement of attorney-client privilege in this case is a criminal investigation. Here’s another passage that seems to support the Bush Administration’s position:

Because agencies and entities of the government are not themselves subject to criminal liability, a government attorney is free to discuss anything with a government official--except for potential criminal wrongdoing by that official--without fearing later revelation of the conversation.

In other words, and, I suppose, not surprisingly, the LAt reporter mined the opinion for the snippets that, taken out of context, would be most damaging to the Bush Administration’s political argument. But in so doing, he only damages his own credibility, not to mention that of his newspaper, which has plenty of troubles of its own.

Update: Here’s a nice piece, via Get Religion, on Roberts’s Catholicism, focusing on his parish, which (by the way) could not be more different from the worship center John Kerry attends in Boston.

Update #2: The blogospheric consensus suggests that I’m right about the massive flaws in the LAT article. For much more lawyerly detail, go here and here. Hat tip: Ken Masugi.

What? What?

I have no idea what Jonah Goldberg is talking about here.

"What’s the frequency, Kenneth?"

Roberts and "the mainstream"

Geoffrey Stone arrogates to himself the "right" to define the mainstream of American constitutional jurisprudence, which, given his position at the University of Chicago, is at least a semi-plausible claim. Are you surprised to learn that Clarence Thomas isn’t in the mainstream, but rather "at the far-right fringe of the bell curve?" Good thing, too, because the mainstream apparently carries justices who are a part of it to the left. Here’s Stone’s wishful thinking (at least that’s what I hope it is) about Roberts:

[L]ike many conservative appointees, there is every reason to believe that a Justice Roberts will gradually drift to the left, following the footsteps of Justices Harry Blackmun, Lewis Powell, John Paul Stevens, O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy and David Souter. Appointed as conservatives by Republican presidents, each of these justices evolved over time. Because they were not tethered to an inflexible ideology, they remained open-minded and continued to learn and to grow during their time on the court. And what they learned was important.

Justices are continually exposed to the injustices that exist in American society and to the effects of those injustices on real people. As they come more fully to understand these realities, and as they come to an ever-deeper appreciation of the unique role of the Supreme Court in our constitutional system, they become better, more compassionate justices. This, too, will happen to John Roberts.

The process Stone describes more aptly applies to representatives, who ought, to some degree at least, to identify with and feel for their constituents. The whole point of giving judges lifetime appointments is to give them the capacity for a kind of judicious distance, so that they apply the law impartially, without respect to persons. Yes, there’s a role for equitable jurisprudence, but that takes us toward Clarence Thomas and a conception of natural law, rather than toward unlimited and illimitable compassion.

Hayward’s Prescription

Hayward’s article is spot on in its diagnosis of the problem and about 95% correct in its prescription. What is lacking, it seems to me, is something that has been frustratingly lacking in most of the conservative organizations with which I have been associated. Where is the attempt at mass appeal, a la Reagan? All of the things Hayward describes are good and important and, in some ways, MORE important than what I’m calling for because they will lay a strong and solid foundation. But Conservatives strike me as too patient in this and they always seem to underestimate the power of their arguments with regular people. If you take a look at the majority of what passes for "enlightened opinion" and "education" out there, you must know that regular people (by which I mean intelligent and good citizens who don’t want to or can’t spend hours of their precious little free time digesting scholarly tomes or even BLOGS) are starving for something, anything, that inspires and animates their own basically good instincts. We conservatives need to get off the bandwagon that laments the corruption of the American people. We need to recognize, as I know Steve does, that it is the elites and not the American people as a whole who are corrupt. That is not to say that they can’t be corrupted if the prescription Steve lays out is not heeded--but it will take longer than the 100 years Progressivism has had to monkey with things. There is still something within the breasts of most Americans that wants to love their country and knows that its original principles are good.

How do we cultivate that? All of the things Steve talked about will have an important trickle down effect but we also need to cultivate statesmen capable of making these arguments on the larger scene. We must be ready to support their arguments when they make them. We need to cultivate solid conservative voices for talk radio and television news--where most people will still get their information no matter how popular BLOGS become. Above all, we need to be bold with our friends, acquaintances and associates. Be polite, of course, but we have a country to save. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with 1/2 an hour, a good bottle of wine, and a decent person who has never heard any of these things before.

Kerry’s brother will run for office

Cameron F. Kerry, a lawyer in Massachusetts and John Kerry’s younger brother, is going to run for office, "he is laying the groundwork to run for the 2006 Democratic nomination for secretary of state." Oh, goody.

Hayward on the roll back

Steve is being a little too modest in his post just below. It is significant that the Soros people are attacking him, because he hits the nail
on the head. The few paragraphs--the ones that "hit the mark"--by Steve that especially irritated the Soros minion are worth quoting at length:

Liberalism as a programmatic ideology derives much of its energy and legitimacy with the public by assuming to be the prime force of human progress. In practical terms ‘progress’ means the continual – and in principle unlimited – expansion of government. This is why more and more spheres of economic and social life end up being politicized despite our best efforts, and is also why today’s liberals slide naturally into calling themselves ‘progressives’ to avoid the unpopularity associated with the liberal label. Public opinion remains vulnerable to liberal/progressive appeals, which is why narrow cost/benefit analysis and similar approaches are not sufficient to turn back liberalism. Right now the conservative movement does not explicitly contest the left over how the terms of human progress are understood.

As a historical matter, it was during the Progressive Era 100 years ago that both the intellectual foundations of modern liberalism, and the corruption of American constitutionalism, were set in place. The ideas spawned during the Progressive Era established the foundations of both the welfare state and the regulatory state. Progressive liberalism began as a broad-based intellectual movement, comprising economists, lawyers, political scientists, historians, journalists and practical politicians. In the space of a generation this movement reshaped our understanding of our political system. It requires an equally broad-based intellectual movement to reverse this.

In other words, we should seek to roll back the Progressive Era. This is less daunting and far-fetched than it may seem on the surface. Liberals today are largely unreflective about their own premises. Therefore, what is necessary is a sustained program to force liberalism to engage in arguments they avoid, or to examine its unstated premises.

I Make George Soros’ Enemies List

According to this long screed from one of George Soros’s minions (scroll down toward the end), something I wrote "hits the mark, a little uncomfortably so."

Can’t wait to see what this discussion thread looks like. Game on!

The House Approves CAFTA

Reuters and the New York Times are reporting that the House of Representatives has just approved the Central American Free Trade Agreement (“CAFTA”) by a vote of 217 to 215. The Senate already approved the pact last month by a vote of 54 to 45. Once implemented, CAFTA will eliminate most barriers to trade and investment between the United States and Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic.

As the Washington Post pointed out on Monday, CAFTA is expected to increase the gross domestic products of both the United States and its Central American trading partners. The agreement will also have a positive impact on American exports:

Today, 80 percent of exports to the United States from CAFTA signatories (Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic) already enter duty-free. Most U.S. products imported by CAFTA nations, however, face relatively high tariffs; CAFTA would immediately eliminate these tariffs on 80 percent of U.S. exports to CAFTA partners. The American Farm Bureau enthusiastically embraces CAFTA, projecting an increase in farm exports (wheat, potatoes, corn, soybeans, pork, poultry, beef and produce) of $1.5 billion per year.

It may interest NLT readers to know that the U.S. Department of Commerce is predicting that CAFTA will specifically benefit Ohio exporters, including manufacturing industries. This would be consistent with Ohio’s overall post-NAFTA experience, whereby the State’s exports to Mexico and Canada more than doubled.   

Gonzales on Roe and Future Court Rulings

A July 27 NY Times account of an AP interview (Tuesday) of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales provides a helpful prelude to the questioning Roberts will face on Roe v. Wade. I say "helpful" because it was only a matter of time before Roberts would have to clarify what he meant when he said, at his 2003 Senate confirmation hearing before joining the D.C. Court of Appeals, that the Roe precedent was "settled law." Here is the relevant cite from Gonzales:

"If you’re asking a circuit court judge, like Judge Roberts was asked, yes, it is settled law because you’re bound by the precedent," Mr. Gonzales said. "If you’re a Supreme Court justice, that’s a different question, because a Supreme Court justice is not obliged to follow precedent if you believe it’s wrong."
Now that AG Gonzales has clarified it for Roberts and the rest of the country, the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee will not be able to claim that Roberts misled them back in 2003 regarding how he would adjudicate future abortion cases, given the 1973 Roe precedent. On this and other important issues, Roberts will have a grand opportunity and obligation to articulate his judicial philosophy at his confirmation hearing. Add to this the confusion over whether or not he was a member of the Federalist Society, and you have a situation where Roberts must step up and explain if he still holds the view of the Constitution and the Supreme Court’s respective role in the federal government that is reflected in his early legal career.

At bottom, Bush, Roberts, and the GOP should remind themselves daily that they hold a 55-45 majority in the Senate, which should give Roberts all the more confidence that an unflinching presentation of his judicial philosophy is worth getting confirmed to the high court with a slimmer margin than otherwise would be garnered by a less forthright and clear expression of his judicial views. Given his reputation as a sharp intellect and adept courtroom advocate, if his principles are no less conservative than those for whom he worked in the past few decades, then Roberts’s confirmation hearing may very well present the clearest contrast of judicial views (Roberts versus the "living Constitution" cohort on the Judiciary Committee) in our lifetime.

Catholic judges

If you want to read interesting thoughts offered by smart people about Catholic judges, there is at the moment no better venue to visit than Mirror of Justice, a group blog "dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory." Among the nuggets currently posted are a snippet from an old Stephen L. Carter article on "The Religiously Devout Judge":

"The ideal of the objective judge was slain by the legal realists long before the critical legal studies movement resurrected it in order to kill it again. But the ghost of the objective judge refuses to go away. I doubt that the objective judge will die quietly, as long as liberals continue to think that letting a judge rest her decisions on a moral understanding is a good idea. Because once a judge’s moral understanding is permitted to play a role, the liberal argument cannot distinguish religiously based knowledge from other moral knowledge, or at least, cannot do so without arguments that require a bit too much cognitive dissonance. The aspirational model of the objective judge might offer the only path to sanity. And if we continue to pursue distinctions as crazy as this one, a path to sanity will be a useful thing to have."

And then there’s
this link to an old First Things piece by Michael McConnell on the Federal Access to Clinic Entrances Act and a judge’s refusal to punish violators of it.

Bookmark the site to leaven your reading of the intelligent, provocative, and eminently practical Bench Memos.

Kid Movies Need Better Writers

Mark Steyn hits with dead-on accuracy the problem with today’s kid movies in this review of Madagascar. Hollywood seems finally to have gotten the message that "G" or "PG" movies targeted at children can produce the big bucks. The problem is--with some notable exceptions like The Incredibles Hollywood is lazy about the way such movies are now produced. We took our two kids to a matinee viewing of Madagascar and, for our $30 we were treated to a plot that was unimaginative and characters that were (with the exception of the lemur Steyn notes and the penguins--all minor characters) uninspired.

Peter’s discussion below of Kipling reminds me of how enthralled the kindergarten kids I taught last year were of Kipling stories and, of course, the Chuck Jones animated version of Riki Tiki Tavi (despite its somewhat outdated animation). All of this just goes to show that there is no substitute for good writing and a good story. Corny jokes about bodily functions can only be recycled so many times. Next time Dreamworks puts out a kids movie, we’ll save our $30 and rent the DVD after reading Steyn’s review! Still, we’re looking forward to the release of Disney’s The Chronicles of Narnia this Christmas.

Roberts’s Early White House Memos

The July 27 NY Times article "In Reagan’s White House ..." cites a few of Judge Roberts’s memos, including this priceless ditty about the least mentioned aspect of the upcoming Senate hearings on Judge Roberts, the U.S. Constituion:

After the Supreme Court struck down efforts by Congress to veto actions taken by the executive branch, Mr. [Elliott] Levitas, a Democrat from Georgia, proposed that the White House and Congress convene a "conference on power-sharing" to codify the duties of each branch of government.

Asked to comment on the congressman’s proposal, Mr. Roberts mocked the idea, and him. "There already has, of course, been a ’Conference on Power Sharing,’ " Mr. Roberts wrote in a memo to Mr. Fielding. "It took place in Philadelphia’s Constitution Hall in 1787, and someone should tell Levitas about it and the ’report’ it issued."

Rhea A. Wheeler, R.I.P.

On the 23rd of July there was a notice in the Ashland Times-Gazette on the passing of Rhea A. Wheeler, 101. Rhea was born in 1903, in Ashland County, and died a month before her 102nd birthday at the home of her daughter Elsie, in Burlingame, California. It was a competent notice, but prosaic. Not revealing enough.

I have known Rhea Wheeler for over ten years. I tried to see her every time I made a trip to California. Such visits, next to seeing my mother, were the highlights of any trip. I saw her last just two months ago. I readily admit that my visits with Rhea were selfish. Although I had reason to think she enjoyed my company, the truth is I took greater delight in her company than she did in mine. She probably didn’t know that.

What does one talk about with an intelligent woman who has lived five score and one year? To answer that you can talk with her about anything is true, but is not quite sufficient, for how she talked about the world—and it was almost never about herself—becomes a massive fact and fully reveals her character.

Rhea’s eyes sparkled when she talked. She always delighted in how the world wags, and everything in it for her was wonderful, fresh, sharp, and profitable. Everything in the world gave her joy, and nothing in it made her drowsy. She never ceased to wonder how many good things there are here in it and how beauteous mankind is. Rhea’s laugh was contagious because she knew that humor is mankind’s greatest blessing, and she wasn’t about to miss anything.

I admired Rhea Wheeler and everything about her and I shall miss her and her many virtues. Did I mention that Rhea died in an easy chair, reading? May she Rest in Peace, may the Good Lord bestow His blessings on her forever.

Wilson and his wife

I haven’t commented much on the "outing" of Valerie Plame because, frankly, very little in this matter is clear. In fact, it is so unclear that the various and varied reports on it, as well as statements by the reporter Cooper, are not only contradictory, but, if I had to bet the ranch on it, I would say are actually pointing away from people like Rove and Libby, back to Wilson, and even some reporters. I am guessing that there will be some large surprises here when all is made public. Note this from

about a House committee showing interest in the now famous State Department memo. The memo seems to say that Plame suggested that her husband go to Niger. Wilson has always denied this. So far, despite Demo partisan huffing and puffings, the only that is clear is that Wilson is as false as water, as the Poet might say.

Support for bin Laden down among Muslims

This Robin Wright artcile in the Washington Post from July 15th (OK, so I’m a bit behind in my reading!) is important. It argues that support for violence and bin Laden is down among Muslims, in some cases dramatically, according to Pew Research Center. The poll concludes: "Most Muslim publics are expressing less support for terrorism than in the past. Confidence in Osama bin Laden has declined markedly in some countries, and fewer believe suicide bombings that target civilians are justified in the defense of Islam." Although attitudes regarding Iraq were more divided, yet the support for terrorist/insurgent bombings dropped by 20% from last year. The results also show a widespread support for democracy.

Here is the whole of the poll, from Pew Global Attitudes Project. Worth a look.  


This letter argues that it’s important for Solicitors General to have access to confidential advice from their subordinates. This op-ed, written by Walter Dellinger, who signed the letter, explains how the Roberts case is different.

Unlike Estrada, Roberts was writing memos not as a civil service lawyer but as a senior political appointee in a policymaking position, and the judgeship at stake isn’t any federal judgeship but the Supreme Court itself. These factors and the announced release of volumes of earlier memos to the White House counsel -- undistinguishable as a matter of law from memos to the solicitor general -- suggest that the memos to the latter will be made public as well.

I’m not sure why the first factor should make a difference when it comes to the importance of getting candid advice. As I understand it, executive privilege (analogous, if not identical) covers political appointees, as well as others. Indeed, the third factor suggests as much. If "political advice" is "undistinguishable as a matter of law from memos to the solicitor general," then the considerations that argue for privilege in one apply as well to the other.

This leads me to two conclusions, one about the Democrats (represented here by Dellinger) and the other about the Bush Administration. First, Dellinger’s second factor--that this is a Supreme Court nomination--makes all the difference, at least in his mind and in the minds of his allies. All bets are off. All other considerations are subordinate to this one. Second, people in the Bush Administration should of course know this, and recognize that by releasing any documents, they just whet the appetite for more. In the minds of Bush’s opponents, there is no principled distinction between one sort of document and another, one sort of position and another. Everything is an object of interest and inquiry.

We want to know, as Dellinger puts it, "what kind of person the nominee is," which means we need to know almost everything about the substantive positions he takes. However nuanced and carefully balanced--I’ll even use the word "judicious"--Dellinger’s use of this information might be (see the concluding paragraph of the op-ed), he’s got to be enough of a grown-up to know that the politicians and activists on the Democratic Left are just looking for ammunition. They’ll talk about "judicial temperament," but what they really care about is substantive positions. If all you cared about is judicial temperament, you could discern that by conducting a traditional (that is, pre-Bork) confirmation hearing.

Update: Paul Mirengoff has more.

What Do Jihadists Want? World-Wide Shari’a

Daniel Pipes simply quotes Bin-Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders to demonstrate that what the terrorists and suicide bombers want is nothing less than to establish Islamic Law throughout the world. (Hat-tip: NRO)

That goal seems so absurd we westerners have trouble taking it seriously.

Face transplants are here

A team of doctors in is working on a face transplant. "After years of heated scientific debate over ethics and technical feasibility, the Cleveland Clinic last fall became the first institution to approve this novel surgery. Already Dr. Siemionow’s group is searching for its first patient." This will not be plastic surgery:

The medical challenges to face transplantation are formidable. As Dr. Siemionow envisions it, the series of operations will require rotating teams of specialists who may be deployed in more than one operating theater. The face to be transplanted will be removed, or "degloved," from a cadaver; it will most likely include the epidermis, along with the underlying fat, nerves and blood vessels, but no musculature.

Surgeons also will remove the patient’s own damaged facial tissue, then reattach the clamped blood vessels and nerves to the transplanted face. The procedures will take 15 hours, perhaps longer.

Building bridges in Columbus

This is the Washington Post report on the Democratic Leadership Council meeting in Columbus, OH. The centrist Dems explained that the party has to stand for something, while Hillary--deeply interested in establishing her moderate credetials--accused the GOP of reverseing the course established by the Dems in the 1990’s. She said, "They turned our bridge to the 21st century into a tunnel back to the 19th century." I always thought that Bill’s bridge-building to the 21st century was bunk (especially regarding terrorism), and that the GOP should have replied by talking about building bridges to the Constitution. Wouldn’t that be a nice slogan? It was announced at the meeting that Hillary would lead the DLC’s American Dream Initiative, "described by the organization as a national conversation with business, political, labor, civic and intellectual leaders on an agenda for the country and party." Money for travel and coffee.

House races in 2006

The Wall Street Journal looks at the so-called competative races for the House in ’06. Most competative seats will result from current members retiring; there are only 16 so far (there were 113 members who reired in 1992 and 1994, when the GOP gained 52 seats). The short of it is this: there is no chance that the Demos will retake the House, although they don’t quite put it that clearly. Useful chart.

Failed states in the world

This is brutal, if unsurprising, news:

How many states are at serious risk of state failure? The World Bank has identified about 30 “low-income countries under stress,” whereas Britain’s Department for International Development has named 46 “fragile” states of concern. A report commissioned by the CIA has put the number of failing states at about 20.

To present a more precise picture of the scope and implications of the problem, the Fund for Peace, an independent research organization, and FOREIGN POLICY have conducted a global ranking of weak and failing states. Using 12 social, economic, political, and military indicators, we ranked 60 states in order of their vulnerability to violent internal conflict....About 2 billion people live in insecure states, with varying degrees of vulnerability to widespread civil conflict.

The 10 most at-risk countries in the index have already shown clear signs of state failure. Ivory Coast, a country cut in half by civil war, is the most vulnerable to disintegration; it would probably collapse completely if U.N. peacekeeping forces pulled out. It is followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Iraq, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Chad, Yemen, Liberia, and Haiti.

Mitt v. Roe?

Mitt Romney vetoed a bill that would expand access to the morning-after pill, thereby keeping his campaign promise not to change Massachusetts abortion laws.

’’I promised the people of Massachusetts that as governor I would not change the laws of the Commonwealth as they relate to abortion," Romney wrote in a veto letter to lawmakers. ’’If taken soon enough, the so-called ’morning after’ pill performs as a contraceptive. But in some cases, it can also act to prevent the implantation of the embryo. To those who believe that life begins at conception, the morning-after pill can destroy the human life that was created at the moment of fertilization."

Since the bill was passed by apparently veto-proof majorities in the state legislature, the principal practical effect of this stance is to burnish Romney’s credentials for the 2008 primary season.

He explains himself to legislators here and to the readers of the Boston Globe here. His conclusion:

There is much in the abortion controversy that America’s founders would not recognize. Above all, those who wrote our Constitution would wonder why the federal courts had peremptorily removed the matter from the authority of the elected branches of government. The federal system left to us by the Constitution allows people of different states to make their own choices on matters of controversy, thus avoiding the bitter battles engendered by ’’one size fits all" judicial pronouncements. A federalist approach would allow such disputes to be settled by the citizens and elected representatives of each state, and appropriately defer to democratic governance.

Except on matters of the starkest clarity like the issue of banning partial-birth abortions, there is not now a decisive national consensus on abortion. Some parts of the country have prolife majorities, others have prochoice majorities. People of good faith on both sides of the issue should be able to make and advance their case in democratic forums -- with civility, mutual respect, and confidence that democratic majorities will prevail. We will never have peace on the abortion issue, much less a consensus of conscience, until democracy is allowed to work its way.

Bush and African-Americans

Bill Sammon reports on a meeting at the White House between President Bush and African-American political and religious leaders. More than one leader observed that President Bush doesn’t get enough coverage or credit for his appointments and initiatives. As if to confirm this observation, the only other major newspaper to cover the meeting was the L. A. Times. Not a word in the NYT or the WaPo.

Good book

John Marini & Ken Masugi have edited a terrific volume that landed on my desk yesterday: The Progressive Revolution in Politics and Political Science. Contributors include: Myers, Carrese, Erler, Claeys, John West (and Tom) and the chapters are very exciting. The darn thing kept me up half the night! If you want to know why the Constitution became a "living" document, why the size and scope of government can’t be limited, and how we got here, you must get it.   

Man to head women’s studies

This may be a bit of good news. At least it’s confusing enough to seem like good news. The University of Washington announced this month that, for the first time since the women’s studies department’s creation in 1970, it will be led by a man, David G. Allen. He will be the only male heading any of the 10 women’s-studies departments in the country that offer a doctoral degree. He took the job because no women were interested, or qualified. Nancy J. Kenney, an associate professor of women’s studies, found this "depressing." "There simply aren’t enough women of the right type and interest to take over this position," she said.

Unrelated, but equally amusing, reserachers have discovered why cats
are such finicky eaters: genetics. They found a dysfunctional feline gene that probably prevents cats from tasting sweets, a sensation nearly every other mammal on the planet experiences to varying degrees. "Because cats can’t taste sweets, they’re cranky," joked Joseph Brand, one of the researchers. Also see Kipling’s The Cat that Walked by Himself.

Hear and attend and listen; for this befell and behappened and became and was, O, my Best Beloved, when the tame animals were wild. The Dog was wild, and the Horse was wild, and the Cow was wild, and the Sheep was wild, and the Pig was wild---as wild as wild could be---and they walked in the wet wild woods by their wild lones. But the wildest of all wild animals was the Cat. He walked by himself, and all places were alike to him.

Curiouser and curiouser

According to this article, Richard Durbin denies the incident discussed here. His denial prompted Jonathan Turley to claim that Durbin was in fact his source. Who’s not telling the truth?

Today’s NYT has more, including this nugget:

Mr. Cornyn called Professor Turley’s account of the discussion "troubling, if true." In his own meeting with Judge Roberts on Monday, Mr. Cornyn recounted, "I said, ’I hate to see somebody going down this road because it really smacks of a religious test for public service.’ "

He added, "I said, ’I hate bringing this up, but since someone else already has and I know it is going to come up, is there anything about your faith or religious views that would prevent you from deciding issues like the death penalty of abortion or the like?’ "

"Absolutely not," Mr. Cornyn recalled Judge Roberts replying.

Mr. Durbin declined to discuss the issue on Monday. A spokesman, Joe Shoemaker, said, "What Judge Roberts did say clearly and repeatedly was that he would follow the rule of law, and beyond that we are going to leave it to Judge Roberts to offer his views."

Of course, the Times does manage to misstate Turley’s contention:

Professor Turley cited unnamed sources saying that Judge Roberts had told Mr. Durbin he would recuse himself from cases involving abortion, the death penalty or other subjects where Catholic teaching and civil law can clash.

Here, once again, is Turley:

According to two people who attended the meeting, Roberts was asked by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) what he would do if the law required a ruling that his church considers immoral.

Even if it’s true that this was the question, and even if Roberts answered by saying that he would recuse himself if could not in good conscience follow the law (both Durbin and Cornyn deny that this is Roberts’s position), the Times got it wrong. No one has claimed, as the Times implies, that Roberts said he would recuse himself on every issue where the Catholic Church has a teaching that might be at odds with (someone’s understanding of) what the law requires or permits. The Times’s shorthand characterization of his answer makes it seem as if he wouldn’t touch any of these vexed issues at all. At most (and let me emphasize that this characterization is controverted), he has said that he couldn’t rule in a way that contradicted his conscience, and so would recuse himself. The Times makes it seem as if any time a matter on which the Catholic Church had a position came up, Roberts would back out. In other words, it construes his position in such a way as to suggest that serious religious believers would have a problem interpreting the law, a position that is at best a vast oversimplification (for reasons I offered in yesterday’s post) and at worst evidence of anti-religious animus.

Update: Win Myers has more here.

Update #2: Paul Mirengoff and Hugh Hewitt think Durbin tried to plant a story through Turley, only to have to back off when Turley actually quoted him. Hewitt’s advice to Roberts: always have a witness when you talk to Democrats.

Final Update: The estimable Jon Schaff has more over at South Dakota Politics, a blog to which he contributes when he’s not shooting prairie dogs.

Back from Michigan

I ran up to Ann Arbor to spend a few hours with a friend. Good talk, good food. Enjoyed it very much; maybe I should have let her talk more. Oh well, I have my vices. Anyway, the thing that occured to me even on this brief trip (about three hours each way) is the same thing I thought about when I rode my bike through Pennsylvania (until I got to DC), and I guess it’s always the same idea: What an absolutely remarkable country. It is full of interesting people, all working and moving about, doing things. Then when you sit a spell with them, as I did in a diner over coffee, they tell you the truest things, with optimistic abandon. Almost none of such folk is goofy--you really have to approach a college suburb to find one--and they are always a very inventive, even in their speech. And the older they are the more the natural music of the language comes through, since most young people haven’t heard the language enough to allow their mouth to imitate the rhythm. Anyway, you Americans are a nice bunch. In Europe I always pay attention to the buildings, here only to the people and their work. There is cause here, of course. I have always liked this from Mark Twain: "We are called the nation of inventors. And we are. We could still claim that title and wear its loftiest honors if we had stopped with the first thing we ever invented, which was human liberty."

More on Roberts’s Catholicism

Jonathan Turley reports on a conversation between John Roberts and Richard Durbin. Asked what he would do if the law required that he rule in a way that the Roman Catholic Church considers immoral, Roberts apparently (after a long pause) said that he would have to recuse himself.

Here’s a little bit of Turley:

Roberts may insist that he was merely discussing the subject theoretically in an informal setting, and that he doesn’t anticipate recusing himself on a regular basis. But it’s not a subject that can be ignored; if he were to recuse himself on such issues as abortion and the death penalty, it would raise the specter of an evenly split Supreme Court on some of the nation’s most important cases.

Roberts could now face difficult questions of fitness raised not only by the Senate but by his possible colleague, Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative members of the court (and a devout Catholic). Last year, Scalia chastised Catholic judges who balk at imposing the death penalty — another immoral act according to the church: "The choice for a judge who believes the death penalty to be immoral is resignation, rather than simply ignoring duly enacted constitutional laws and sabotaging the death penalty."

Of course, Turley seems to assume (with respect to abortion at least) that Roberts’s duty as a judge might be inconsistent with his duty as a Catholic, which isn’t altogether clear, given the narrowness of the questions with which he’s likely to be presented, the
role of prudence in Roman Catholic moral thinking, and some of the considerations advanced in this post, as well as others (like this one) on the same site.

Turley also describes Roberts and his colleagues, quite misleadingly, in this way:

[He is] one of a new generation of post-Bork nominees, young conservatives who have been virtually raised on a hydroponic farm for flawless conservative fruit. They learned to confine their advocacy to legal briefs so that their true views are only known to the White House and to God.

I find it passing strange that other potential Supreme Court nominees (such as all those
apparently interviewed for this slot), as well as someone like Michael McConnell, weren’t raised on the same farm. Of course, if the first President Bush had had his way, Roberts would by now have had a long record of opinions, as would a number of the current President’s appointees. In short, Turley’s characterization of the Republican stealth strategy is so far from accurate that one wonders what non-partisan reason he could have had for offering it.

Hat tips: Powerline and Southern Appeal.

Update: Nathan Forrester has more.

Update #2 Michael DeBow, a card-carrying member of the Federalist Society, had this to say in an email:

Wasn’t the "hydroponic farm" route entirely predictable after Bork’s treatment? And isn’t it remarkable that an entire shadow legal academy has to exist, outside the leftist bastion of "mainstream" legal education, in order for the traditional view of law to be preserved and transmitted? If Turley were interested in the substance of the matter, either of these points would have been more important to make than the cheap shot he took.

As someone who arrived in the Washington hothouse just a few years after Roberts, clerked for Ken Starr, and worked in the Reagan Administration, Mike’s views ought to carry some weight. I guess he’s given up his dream of sitting on the Supreme Court, however. Too much "extremism" on his resume.

Roberts’s youthful exuberance

This article mines some of John Roberts’s early Reagan Administration memos. As a 28 year old, Roberts wielded a sharp (and funny) pen. The good news from the memos is that he seems to have favored Bork, Posner, and Scalia, among others. Hat tip: Powerline, which also links to this article, about Roberts’s relationship with the Federalist Society. Whether he is a member or not only matters to denizens of the fever swamp.

India and us

The Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, gave this acceptance speech for the honorary degree Oxford conferred upon him. It was one day after the first terrorist attack on London, and a few days after one in India. It is an altogether lovely speech, and also is very clear on how India views terrorism. Also note this on U.S.-India from The Economist. (Via Instapundit.)


Lance Armstrong has won his seventh Tour de France. Remarkable. Congratulations.

Affirmative Action in the Wedding Notices?

Admit it: You regular sneak a peek at the New York Times Sunday wedding announcements, as a kind of highbrow People magazine (which was only created to shorten the perception of the waiting time in doctor and dentist offices).

The NYT wedding announcements are typically blue-blooded affairs—-Thurston Howell the Fifth, grandson of Thurston Howell the Third, lost on a three-hour cruise in 1964, marries Buffy Trumpington-Cadbury, etc. Of course, the Times pays homage to diversity by being sure to include minorities of all stripes, but these are usually high achiving minorities, i.e., Harvard Law Grads, Ford Foundation program officers, scientists, and so forth.

It would seem, however, that the Times has to lower its standards dramatically to include announcements of gay partnerships. Today, for example, includes a notice for the nuptuals of Anthony Brown and Gary Spino. Brown is "of counsel" to a law firm in East Rockaway (not exactly Fifth Avenue white shoe territory), having earned his law degree from Brooklyn Law School, and Spino is an office manager for an osteopath.

Not likely that a hetero couple with such credentials would make the wedding page. The Times former "public editor," Daniel Okrent, criticized the paper’s coverage of gay marriage for its "cheerleading" tone, which extends, so it would seem, to its wedding notices.

Great photograph

A lovely photo here.

Kissing as history

This brief history of kissing (now why didn’t I think of that for a dissertation subject?) in the

London Times is a kind of interesting. But it is a bit prosaic. But not so when Paulo and Francesca kissed. Dante has Francesca say that they had been alone and without fear, reading, and then at one point they were overcome and then he "Kissed me upon the mouth all palpitating...That day no farther did we read therein." See this.
And there were consequences.

The soul of justice

Steve recommended the movie "To End All Wars" (see below), so I took advantage of a slow evening and saw it. Steve’s right, it is a tremendous work. An intense and serious film, one that moves between political philosophy and Christianity with amazing deft. It is realistic, of course, and therefore is about justice, but then moves beyond, to redemption. Thanks to Steve for recommending it. He’s right, best movie I never heard of.

Surviving the Sword, Movie Version

Peter’s post below about the Washington Post Book Review of Surviving the Sword provides the opportunity to bring up the best movie you’ve never heard of, To End All Wars. This movie tells the true story of Ernest Gordon, a Scottish regimental soldier captured in Singapore in 1942 and sent to a Japanese labor camp in Thailand.

The movie, which stars Keifer Sutherland ("24") and Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty) is extraordinary. In addition to its gritty accuracy, it tells a story of philosophical and spiritual redemption for the survivors. (Ernest Gordon went on to become chaplain of Princeton University, and died three years ago shortly after the film was completed. The last scene of the movie is real footage of Gordon reconciling with the Japanese camp translator in a war cemetary in Thailand.)

If this were a just world, the filmakers would have a shelf full of Oscars. But despite winning several regional film festivals, the movie never made it to general release in part because it defies all the Hollywood conventions, and all the usual distribution studios were scared to touch the film and had no idea how it could be marketed. But you can order the DVD from Amazon by clicking the link above. You will not be disappointed. You also won’t be able to stop thinking about it for a week.

The film’s producer, Jack Hafer, is a good friend of mine, and tells me that he showed the movie to a number of camp survivors, who all said that it was leagues beyond Bridge on the River Kwai (which they thought was rather cartoonish compared to their real experience), and that, despite To End All War’s graphic violence that earned it an R-rating, it wasn’t violent enough.

The fever swamp again

Cynthia McKinney, no longer my Congresswoman, thanks to the Georgia State Legislature (but still "representing" some hapless Georgians), is up to her old tricks, using a "hearing" to engage in 9-11 conspiracy theorizing.

No mercy

When I was in my teens I spent a few days with an Englishman who was visiting in California. I was driving a Japanese car, and, to my amazement, he would not ride in it. He flattered me by explaining something he almost never talked about (according to his family). He had been a soldier and was captured by the Japanese, captured when Singapore fell. He spent the whole of the war as a slave laborer under the Japanese. He said he very much regretted that he could not forgive them for their horrid treatment of the Allied prisoners. We drove around in my father’s Chevy.

Robert Asahina review a new book by Brian MacArthur, Surviving the Sword: Prisoners of the Japanese in the Far East, 2942-45. The tale is a relentless tale of savagery.

Numbers can only begin to suggest the staggering dimensions of the horror. Within five months after Pearl Harbor, more than 50,000 British and Australians in Singapore, 52,000 Dutch and British in Java and 25,000 Americans in the Philippines had fallen into Japanese hands -- a total of 132,142 Fepows. Most spent the next three and a half years in prison camps, where 27 percent of them died (compared to 4 percent of Germans in Allied prisons). A third of the dead -- 12,000 men -- perished during construction of the Burma-Thailand railroad, immortalized in "The Bridge on the River Kwai."

The story just gets worse. (Thanks to Powerline).

The inexorable sterness of Churchill

Given the London terror attacks, Ben McIntyre considers how Churchill would have thought about terrorism. McIntryre’s attempt is not entirely satisfactory (especially regarding Iraq and pre-emptive war), but he does note that Winston would have advanced (as he did in the Sudan) with "inexorable sterness." James W. Muller has edited the first full (not abridged) re-edition of The River War, the first since its original publication since 1899. The original two volumes were shortened into one in 1902, and all subsequent editions have relied on this. That injustice is now righted. Muller’s edition will be published September 1st.

Update: Little Green Footballs notes that the article neuters Winston’s message. Here is what Churchill said, in its entirety about the horrific battle to wrest the Sudan from the jihadists of the 19th century:

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities - but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.

—Sir Winston Churchill, from The River War, first edition, Vol. II, pages 248-50 (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899).

What questions should be asked of Roberts

For those interested, Matthew Franck, Gerard Bradley, Mark Levin, and I have engaged in a lengthy back-and-forth on this topic over at NRO’s Bench Memos.

The Roberts family

The national press treats us to an examination of Jane Roberts’ views on abortion, as well as to her life story. And then there’s this utterly tasteless piece, written about the way the Roberts children were dressed for their visit to the White House.

I’m waiting for the inevitable line of inquiry regarding Roberts’s Catholicism and his ability to separate his faith, which he "does not wear on his sleeve", from his judgment.

Update: Not surprisingly, Hugh Hewitt is all over this. And for more on the politics of Roberts’s Catholicism, go here (Charlotte Allen) and here (Amy Sullivan).

Roberts as tabula rasa?

Charles Krauthammer thinks that on constitutional matters, Roberts is a tabula rasa. Bill Kristol is persuaded that Roberts is a conservative on constitutional matters. Worth reading, with a great story by a former law clerk (a liberal) who not only maintains that Roberts is conservative, but also insightfully asserts that given his congenial nature he is likely to have a huge impact on the Court, and "he could ultimately be a progressive’s worst case scenario." Also see Powerline.
And here is
Michael Barone’s take on Roberts: "Justice Roberts will do much to redefine what is the mainstream in American constitutional law."

UPDATE: Anita Hill, the world famous, extremely bright, widely published professor of law--although your memories of her may differ--has an opinion (or two or three) about Roberts. I haven’t heard her name mentioned in years; now I know why.

Dems meeting in Ohio

The annual meeting of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council will be held in Columbus, OH, this weekend. The Dem moderates speaking will be Vilsack, Bayh, (plus Hillary). The president of the DLC said: "If Democrats can’t win in Ohio, we don’t deserve to win the presidency. As ’04 demonstrated, the state has become a real bellwether."

Hunting terrorists in London

It looks as though our tough allies the Brits are hunting down the terrorists responsible for the terrorist bombings of yesterday (and two weeks ago). At least one man, "an Asian man", was shot shot dead at a tube station. More here. Meanwhile, some New Yorkers are upset that bags on subways may be randomly searched. But no racial profiling, of course. Just random.

Maybe he’s gay, whisper the Left

This is a heck of a morning. I get up earlier than ususal (about five) and learn about continued mischief in London and then this: The Left is actually making out that Judge Roberts may well be gay. After all this is a guy who studied French and Latin in high school, was on the wrestling team, and participated in the choir, and, oh yes, there is this: at least once he wore plaid pants. Of course, you understand we’re not saying he is gay, besides even if he is it’s OK by us because are are on the Left and we don’t care, we’re just pointing all this out. Do with it what you will, say they. Isn’t this something? To what lengths will the Left go? They are beneath contempt, says Powerline.

An Evening with Ted Turner

I’ve been quiet on this blog over the last few days because I’m holed up at Big Sky, Montana, attending an environmental policy conference. (In fact, I’m blogging now from a bar that has a wireless hot spot, so I may have more typoes than usual).

The culmination of the conference was a tour this afternoon of Ted Turner’s 112,000 acre bison ranch near here, followed by dinner at Ted’s barn and remarks from Ted. Turner is the largest individual private landowner in the nation, owning a total of 2 million acres in 11 states. Here in Montana and elsewhere he is engaged in a determined effort to restore natural habitat for bison and other endangered species, for which he deserves applause.

But of course I’ve always thought he was something of a barking loon, and he did not disappoint in his remarks. He said that he thinks mankind may only have 50 years left to survive, which is typical Malthusian/enviro apocalypticism. When told he was speaking to a mostly conservative group, he said he considered himself a "progressive" (not a liberal), but that his very anti-communist father had warned him in the 1940s that when the Communists took over America they’d shoot anyone with more than $50, "So for 30 years I went around with never more than $49 in my wallet."

On the whole he was hilarious. When a prominent conservative philanthropist whom I shall not name asked him to rank his greatest innovations, he simply ran through a laundry list--CNN, Goodwill Games, his anti-nuke proliferation efforts, his eco-ranches. But then he added:

"And I married Jane Fonda. That was innovative. . . Any more on that innovation and I’d be getting into private details."

Hard not to warm up to a guy like that. He served us barbecued bison ribs from his own herd. Actually the guy is a bit of a shell of his former self. He is land rich but cash-poor with the collapse of his Time-Warner holdings, a fact he alluded to repeatedly with some bitterness (toward Time-Warner) and sarcasm. In fact he has had to cut back on his grantmaking to left wing organizations and the UN, which isn’t all bad. He no longer has any role with CNN (so we can’t blame him for that any more).

Now back to the beach in California and a regular blogging schedule.

London II and layered defense

The Belmont Club has some thoughtful observations on the terrorist acts in London (that is, the seond ones). After explaining how the Navy used a layered defense around battlegroups to try to prevent the Kamikaze attacks from succeeding, Wretchard writes:

The debate surrounding the prosecution of the war on terror can be conceptually split, though not very neatly, between those who advocate a layered defense with a forward-deployed component (coordination with ’friendly’ Muslim countries, involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, etc), plus everything in between, and those who would rely primarily on terminal or close-in defenses (national IDs, CCTV cameras, border control, etc) in the homeland. A small percentage of policy advocates believe that a complete reliance on nearly passive close-in defenses ("support the troops, bring the boys home", build bridges to Muslim communities, etc) would be adequate to protect the public against terrorism. Over the coming years, the value of every aspect of the defense will be highlighted by different incidents. Some attacks will be stopped by an alert security guard, others will be pre-empted in a land so distant the public will never even know that the attacks were mounted. But they are all needed. If any lives were saved in London today, it probably means that a deep defense makes a difference.

Another reason for Alberta to secede from Canada

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about this suggestion, which would provide for governmentally-sponsored religious self-regulation in Canada. The author advances it as "help[ing] the general cause of religious freedom by introducing a code of moral practice for religions," but either he’s joking or he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. To make agreement with a "professional" consensus the prerequisite for being a "religious practitioner" (heh) is a prescription for totalitarianism and a license for the persecution of those who insist on being different, i.e., at odds with modernity.

Multiple hat tips to Gideon Strauss (the permalink isn’t working again), David Koyzis, James M. Kushiner, and Lydia McGrew.

Bethany Christian Services: Catholics now welcome

Via Southern Appeal, we learn that Bethany Christian Services of Mississippi has decided to do the right thing, bringing its policy and practice in line with those of the national organization (which has decided no longer to leave its state affiliates any choice in the matter). For background, go here and here.

Good for Bethany and good for the families they serve.

Roberts as a post-60’s conservative

Here David Brooks’ take on the Roberts pick for the Court. I like his political point--that by selecting Roberts Bush has put the screws to the Demos--because he agrees with my first-sight analysis

and also think that his point about Roberts being a post ’60 conservative is thoughtful and worth pondering. Conservatives are now governing, and they look a bit different than those of us who were bred on the ramparts.

Win Myers moves on

No, he hasn’t gone over to the dark side, but in the course of telling us about this op-ed, he lets it slip that he has become managing editor of The American Enterprise (link currently dead, but sure to come back to life), a publication of the American Enterprise Institute. Rumor has it there may be a blog in AEI’s (or TAE’s) future. I hope so.

As for Win’s op-ed, he writes about Vanderbilt University’s attempt to erase an inconvenient part of its (and our) past. Win notes that people do this all the time--altering evidence about or rewriting accounts of the past in order to serve present political or cultural purposes. It’s especially troubling--or ironic, if you will--for a university supposedly dedicated to free inquiry to do so. Here’s his conclusion:

Absent sustained, sincere and rigorous efforts to present any nation’s or individual’s past forthrightly, the intergenerational conversation that is historical debate becomes artificial, stilted and propagandistic. This is true for research and writing based on manuscript collections, letters, public records, works in myriad fields — for the primary sources that historians draw on to craft a vision of how those who came before us lived, what they thought, and why they acted as they did. It’s also true of our physical past, of the remains of those who preceded us. Whether these artifacts are recovered by archaeologists or maintained by historic preservationists, they are a priceless repository of the human experience. It’s why we value old structures and why we support museums.

To join this conversation is to become part of a greater dialogue that, over the centuries, shapes our perceptions of who we are as a people, a civilization and a world. But to deny the past, even to the point of physically expunging the historical record from academic buildings, is to engage in a destructive folly to scrub history in the search for a more perfect future.

What Vanderbilt attempted was indeed intellectually myopic. But more importantly, it was a violation of our obligations to our descendants — and to our ancestors, whoever and wherever they were, to keep the conversation going from one generation to the next.

Read the whole thing.

Should the Court be "balanced"?

Andrew Busch explains why those who object to President Bush trying to shift the balance of the Supreme Court are wrong: They participate in a species of aristocratic elitism that is wholly inappropriate in our constitutional regime. This reveals a "profoundly anti-democratic understanding of the Constitution and the role of the Supreme Court." Of course, what lies behind all this is partisanship and ideology. These same people would not be making such an argument of Kerry had won the election, nor would they have advised Franklin Roosevelt "to appoint a strict constructionist so that the balance of 1935 would not be altered."

London, again

Here is what the Washington Post has so far on the "attempted explosions" in London.


Apparently, the Claremont Review of Books.

Democrat exit strategy on Roberts

Ryan Lizza declares victory and moves on:

Why then did the president break with most of his known habits and instincts last night? A few theories:

The Democrats’ strategy of unified opposition and obstruction may finally have chastened the White House. Democrats have recently made life miserable for Bush. They have killed Social Security and ground the rest of Bush’s domestic agenda to a halt. They have eaten up weeks of valuable time in the Senate with their opposition to lower court nominees. They killed John Bolton’s nomination to be ambassador to the United Nations. Democrats have been warned by Republicans that their obstructionism will cost them at the polls, but it may have forced Bush into choosing a more conciliatory nominee. If O’Connor had resigned immediately after Bush’s reelection one has to imagine that Bush would have picked a more mischievous jurist. So while conservatives are hailing the Roberts pick, it may actually be a sign of Bush’s current weakness.

There’s more, but you can read the rest yourself, if you want.

Roberts on church and state

For those of you interested in these matters, Beliefnet has provided excerpts of and links to two briefs on First Amendment cases John Roberts co-authored while he was Deputy S.G. The cases are Westside v. Mergens and Lee v. Weisman.

Of course, the qualification regarding ascribing to the attorney the opinions of his client apply. Roberts is listed third on both briefs, after Ken Starr and the Assistant A.G.

Update: Beliefnet missed a brief, providing a link only to the amicus brief on the petition for the writ of certiorari in Lee v. Weisman. Here’s the amicus brief on the case itself.

Update #2: Beliefnet does have a package of columns speculating about Roberts’ religion clause views. Nathan Diament thinks that Roberts will favor the "equal treatment" position that has gained favor against the "wall of separation" argument. Samuel Estreicher argues that "a Justice Roberts is likely to look more favorably on permitting limited references to religion in the public square, as consistent with the nation’s history and values." Marci Hamilton thinks that on free exercise cases there will prove to be a big difference between Roberts and Michael McConnell, with the former arguing that accommodating free exercise is the job of legislatures and the latter that accommodations are constitutionally mandated.

The big religion case coming up in the next term is Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Etc., a case concerning the protections extended by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to the religious use of controlled substances. Here’s the Appeals Court decision, and here’s the result of the en banc rehearing by the entire 10th Circuit, in which Michael McConnell authored a significant concurrence, which is not surprising, given his criticism of the Court’s decision in Employment Division v. Smith and his very public support for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (in two articles in First Things, unfortunately not archived on the website). I guess we’ll likely know soon enough (confirmation optimist that I am) how different Roberts and McConnell are.

Critical of Roberts

Tom West is not amused "at the conservative gushings" over the Roberts pick. Here is all of it:

I am amazed at the conservative gushings over President Bush’s nomination of John Roberts for the Supreme Court. What do we know about him? Almost nothing, based on what I have read. Yet Bill Kristol, Fred Barnes, Robert Alt, Peter Schramm, Powerline, National Review online, you name it--all these folks seem to be sure that this is a great pick. But I have seen very little that gives any serious evidence of what Roberts actually thinks the Constitution means.

I remember how conservatives rallied around Souter when he was nominated. Like Roberts, Souter’s record was very thin. He turned out to be a disaster.

Of course, we may one day discover that Roberts was all along a secret but passionate admirer of Clarence Thomas’s jurisprudence. If that proves to be the case, I will gladly admit that my suspicions were wrong.

Other things aside, I never rallied on behalf of Souter. I’ll get back to this later.

Ann Coulter is also disappointed. Powerline responds to her.

A musty old book

A nice piece from The Chronicle lamenting the movement among university libraries like U. Texas to replace books with electronic versions. No blogger can be a Luddite. But is there a lovelier experience than ambling through library stacks, flipping open a book at random, perusing a little passage, and then gliding to the next interesting-looking volume? Could there be a sweeter smell than the pages of a musty old book?

Call me old-fashioned, but a glaring computer screen can never replace a well-worn copy as a student’s best friend.

Early opinions on the Roberts pick

Adam Nagourney, writing for the New York Times, explains why the Roberts pick disarms Bush enemies. Note the reference to threading the eye of the needle in the article, from a Democrat. This is a revealing article because it shows that the establishment liberal press cannot refute the obvious. Bill Kristol is very impressed at what Bush has done. Fred Barnes is not as impressed. He calls it the "safe pick." Rich Lowry asserts that there is "no downside" to choosing Roberts. Shannen Coffin thinks it is a great choice.

Misunderestimated Again

George W. Bush amazes again. Just when you think he is going to do something politically correct to win a few votes in the Senate, just when you think he is going to compromise in a way that disappoints conservatives, just when you think his wife is giving crucial hints, he steps up to the plate and whacks a ’no doubt about it’ homerun.

On important matters, W rises to the occasion.

A few political thoughts on the Roberts nomination

I have been watching CNN, FOX, et al, since about 8:45 and I have a few quick thoughts on the Roberts pick. First, the President surprised everyone, especially his politically enemies, because he nominated a good conservative with great credentials. This is visible by their first reactions: They are not quite sure whether or not they should attack; they cannot re-define Roberts the way Bork’s opponents were able to. Now it is true that Durbin, Schumer and a few others went ballistic immediately, but aside from some fireworks on the Judiciary Committee, it will have no effect. The surprise is directly connected to the fact that W chose an excellent person, ignoring the ethnic and gender winds that have been howling around him. So W’s reason for appointing Roberts is better than Reagan’s was for nominating O’Connor in 1982. Not a small point, this.

Second, this puts the Democrats in a bind. It is as clear as things get that Roberts will be confirmed. His reputation for intelligence, wit, and character are significant. It will be very difficult to vote against him; the vast majority of Democrats will end up voting for him. The party will be split on an issue that the Liberal leadership has been claiming to be unified on.

Third, Bush will benefit from this nomination in very clear ways. He kept his promise, appointed a solid conservative, a guy who was--so to speak--first in his class , an affable smart guy. And, it will be seen as a courageous decision by Bush because what cannot be argued is that he did it for low political reasons (which could have been argued if he had nominated a person who is black or Hispanic or a woman). It is simpler to argue that since there is no side benefit to Roberts, he is nominated for his excellence only. And he has a reputation for excellence.

Fourth, Roberts is not only a very young guy (born in ’55) and will be around--God willing, as they say--for maybe thirty plus years, but also has, as everyone says, a very pleasant disposition; he is easy to like. This will be important in the confirmation hearings; he will need his agreeable nature when he refuses to answer questions that shouldn’t be asked; combine this with his intelligence and wit, and he will sail through, and his few opponents will look like
severe carpers.

As far as I can tell the Demos will push on his views on abortion (especially the brief he wrote when he was at Justice) and the very recent decision the DC Circuit Court made upholding Bush’s stance on enemy combatants. To work both of these publicly, especially the latter, will be very dangerous for Democrats. His oppponents will not be able to make Roberts out to be an extremist. And Bush has satisfied his party and his base and has pushed his political opponents off balance. Political advantage to Bush without a doubt.

The Left on Roberts

This thread on the Daily Kos contains lots of despairing comments about how hard it’s going to be effectively to oppose Roberts. Here’s a sample:

Listen guys, he ain’t Thurgood Marshall, but the fact is that we got 45 seats in the senate, and 7 of our guys are not gonna agree to a filibuster (Roberts ain’t exactly an extraordinary circumstance).

Confirm him quickly, and let’s get back on our issues for the 2006 elections.

Democrats gain absolutely nothing by opposing, filibustering, or otherwise delaying his confirmation to the bench. He’s simply not conservative enough to be sufficiently "Borked". Democrats will look petty trying to dig up phrases and isolated sentances from his legal writings.

Instead, let’s have the Democrats ask a few tough questions, and let’s get back on Karl Rove, Tom Delay, and the issues that we can get traction on for the 2006 elections.

Of course, if we find out next week that this guy was a slaveowner, I’ll feel pretty stupid. I’m not saying "Let’s not examine him". I’m just saying that we get nothing out of drawing his confirmation out.

Here’s the Alliance for Justice brief against Roberts when he was nominated for the D.C. circuit. A quick scan of the document suggests to me that he’s an extremely effective advocate, writing lots of briefs to which the Alliance objects, but with which the Supreme Court ultimately agreed.

Other useful previews of the opposition are press releases from NARAL, PFAW, the Alliance for Justice, and the ACLU. Only NARAL has already announced its opposition; the others are simply now expressing their concerns.

My guess is that the Democrats will make a lot of noise and demand all sorts of documentation from the Reagan and Bush 41 Administrations, but will quickly realize that they don’t have the votes to sustain a filibuster, especially against the threat of a change in the Senate rules. Roberts holds all the Republican votes and gets a couple of Democrats to boot.

One Good Result

One good result of the Roberts pick is that it breaks the precedent that there is or are "women’s seats" on the Court that must be filled by women or some other symbolic minority.

Info on Roberts

This is his brief professional bio, and this has more info. And this has more, with good links.

A fine choice

John Roberts is an excellent choice--one of the best available--for the Supreme Court. He is a lawyer’s lawyer, and has the reputation for being one of the finest appellate advocates to argue before the Supreme Court. He was a fine brief writer, and has garnered a reputation as a D.C. Court of Appeals Judge for being an excellent opinion writer, authoring concise, well-reasoned decisions.

Any attempt to filibuster him should be dismissed as silliness: when they finally permitted a vote on Roberts for the court of appeals, he was confirmed by unanimous consent. If the Democrats attempt to call him an extraordinary circumstance and use the filibuster, it will show their own disengenuity, and will guarantee not only the use of the nuclear option, but public support for the nuclear option.

Judge Roberts

Here is a profile from the Washington Post on Roberts (and Luttig) of a few days ago, and a shorter profile from two weeks ago. And here is the two-minute old AP story on Roberts, who is called "a rock solid conservative." This is the CNN story. I’m off to watch the announcement...

Drudge says John C. Roberts, Jr.

So it must be true.

Last minute rumors on SCOTUS

It was Clements, the knowers said. Then they said no, it will not be her. Then they moved to the other Edith (Jones), then maybe not, maybe it will be--as Major Garrett said on TV, an "angry white male" (isn’t that stupid!)--Judge Luttig, or maybe even Roberts, or McConnell. No one is talking about Bathelder now. Maybe it will be Janice Rogers Brown or Garza. You’ve got to hand it to Bush. He makes politics good clean fun. The only thing I am certain of is that it will not be AG Gonzales. If you want to kill fifteen minutes go to NRO’s Bench Memos, where they have just reported that CNN is saying it will be Judge Roberts.

SCOTUS rumors

I’ll be watching eagerly tonight. According to this report, it’s not Edith Clement. Bench Memos is, of course, going full tilt in every conceivable direction, with Robert Alt noting Peter’s promotion of Alice Batchelder.

In favor of Batchelder, again

Now that we know Bush will announce his choice for the Supreme Court tonight, perhaps my attempt to explain why I like Judge

Alice Batchelder may seem superflous. Most of the rumor-mill says that he will nominate Judge Edith Clement of the Fifth Circuit. I am not yet persuaded. I’ve been wrong before, I am told (but I can’t remember when!).

William Westmoreland, RIP

A lot of what went wrong in Vietnam was not Westmoreland’s fault, but there is one area where his strategy was mistaken, and from which it would seem we are applying the lessons in Iraq. Westmoreland--and the other service chiefs--were fans of the "big unit" search-and-destroy war in the mid-1960s, which is why total troop levels rose to over 500,000 by 1968. All of that time very little was being done to train the Vietnamese army to fight for itself. (McNamara rejected this, saying by the time the Vietnamese were trained, we’d have the war won.) When Gen. Creighton Abrams took over in 1969 and began the drawdown of troops, things went much better because Abrams largely abandoned the search-and-destroy strategy in favor of an "enclave" strategy that emphasized turning over the war to the Vietnamese. (See Lewis Sorley’s fine book, A Better War, for a full account of the Abrams command.)

So when you hear people complain that we don’t have enough troops in Iraq, remember that the opposite complaint was made about Vietnam. From afar it seems our basic strategy in Iraq is the right mixture of Westmoreland and Abrams--protect crucial enclaves, train the Iraqis, and engage in specific search-and-destroy missions (Falluja, etc) when key targets can be identified.

In favor of Batchelder

Rumor has it that President Bush will announce his choice to replace O’Connor either today or tomorrow. Chris Flannery, writing for NRO, thinks--I’m glad to say--that his choice should be Alice Batchelder of the Sixth Circuit. Flannery goes into some detail on some of her decisions, including, Plaut, Ejelonu and DeMatteis. Nice line: "Taken together, Batchelder’s decisions demonstrate that she has what might be called a judge’s soul: deliberative, infused with common sense, and confined by the limits of law. She is a restrained jurist without being a parody of one -- she can stand up to the other branches of government when necessary."

Today’s Washington Post makes a big point about how so many judges from the Fifth Circuit are in the running, including Edith Brown Clement, Emilio M. Garza, Edith Hollan Jones, Priscilla R. Owen and Edward C. Prado.

College Guides: Help This Man

Jay Matthews of the ’Washington Post’ has been assigned the task of reviewing several College Guides and asks for your help.

Perhaps you can offer him some advice.

The Latest Buzz: Gonzales Out

’The Hill’ , the newspaper of Capitol Hill, reports that conservatives have been assured that Alberto Gonzales will not be nominated to replace O’Connor.

The inside money now focuses on the two Ediths, Jones and Clement, on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Hadley Arkes comments in the article:

“Edith Jones has the sharper definition as a conservative, tagged as pro-life in her perspective, and she is bound to draw the heaviest fire,” Hadley Arkes, a conservative legal scholar and professor of jurisprudence at Amherst College, wrote last week for National Review Online. “Clement, in contrast, would be a harder target: her own specialty was in maritime law; she has not dealt, in her opinions with the hot-button issues of abortion and gay rights.”

Though Gonzales is out, two Hispanic judges have emerged in the buzz, Florida Supreme Court Justice, Raoul Cantero, and 5th Circuit Judge, Emilio Garza.

Get out the hard balls.

Lind’s Lincoln

Some months ago I discovered a new book about Lincoln by Michael Lind, What Lincoln Believed: The Values and Convictions of America’s Greatest President. How could I resist, even though I knew the author was on the Left? I got a bitter cup of coffee, hoping for the best. Thirty pages later, appalled at the silliness and inacurracy of the whole thing, I put it back on the shelf, next to two other worthless books on Lincoln. I was right and

James M. McPherson (in The Nation, no less) explains why. Great review. McPherson savages the book. Thanks, professor. By the way, why would the famous Doubleday publish such rubish? Just one paragraph from McPherson regarding some factual things:

Puzzled readers may be forgiven if they come away from this book convinced that Lincoln’s beliefs were closer to those of the Ku Klux Klan than to those of the NAACP--for that is precisely Lind’s argument in most of the book. Or perhaps they will conclude that Lind does not know what he is talking about when he maintains that there was no inconsistency between Lincoln the liberal democrat and Lincoln the racist despot. This conclusion would be reinforced by some of the alleged "facts" reported in these pages: that the Northwest Ordinance banned slavery in states (it applied only to territories); that the Dred Scott decision applied to a runaway slave in Ohio; that "most Northern states" in the 1850s banned free blacks from settling therein (only four of eighteen did); that William Seward was Secretary of State in the Grant Administration; that ratification by a simple majority of states could amend the Constitution; and that the Congress elected in 1936 contained 524 representatives and 112 senators (the actual numbers were 435 and 96, respectively).

NRA will not come to Columbus

The National Rifle Association was going to hold its 2007 annual meeting in Columbus. Wayne LaPierre explains: "The convention is canceled because last week your City Council unanimously voted to revoke the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens in Columbus by banning perfectly legal firearms." The ban was on semi-automatic firearms, the same ban that Congress passed in 1994 and was allowed to expire last Fall because it was proven to be ineffective. Columbus will lose circa 20 million bucks.

(via The Remedy.)

Walmart Goes Beltway--Sigh

This article in The New Republic discusses how the left is targeting WalMart in Washington DC, and how WalMart is having to respond by hiring lobbyists and playing the usual campaign contribution game, which hitherto it has not done.

This is one of the main purposes of the administrative state--to drag everyone into the DC orbit one way or another. I remain convinced that one of the reasons for the Microsoft anti-trust crusade in the 1990s was that the software behemoth wasn’t paying tribute to DC with lobbyists and campaign contributions (Microsoft had barely any presence in DC before the late 1990s--now it pays squads of lobbyists and lawyers and ladles out campaign cash like every other big company). The appeal of Washington is not much different from that other organization you sometimes hear about: "Nice little company you have here--shame if anything happened to it."

Iraqi boy helped

This front-page New York Times article tells the story of 13 year old Ayad al-Sirowiy from Iraq and how he was hurt in the war, and how some enterprising Americans, including Robert Reilly, an old friend of mine, helped him.

Judge Alice Batchelder to the Supreme Court?

This Washington Post article claims that Bush is close to announcing his choice to replace O’Connor on the Court, and that person is likely to be a woman. A name that has been mentioned by Sunday morning talk shows, AP, USA Today, and the Post, over the last few weeks, and yet is not getting the attention she deserves is Judge Alice Batchelder of the Sixth Circuit. I’m paying a bit more attention to this because I happen to know her and have her scheduled to give our Constitution Day Lecture in September. Although she always appears a bit low on the list of possibles, I have reason to think she is much higher. She is a smart and deeply learned jurist who understands the role of the Court in our Constitutional order. Her opponents therefore will call her a conservative. That’s fine. I’ll probably have to find someone else for the Constitution Day talk if she gets appointed, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

Martian Americans

John Leo writes: "David Koepp, who wrote the screenplay for War of the Worlds, says the Martian attackers in the film represent the American military, while the Americans being slaughtered at random represent Iraqi civilians." There is more here.
These guys are off the wall, are they not? But Harry’s Place reminds us that the moral equivalence arguments were around even during WWII. (Via Instapundit).

Server problems

We have, for the past three days, have been having problems with our server. I think it should be OK now, but nothing will surprise me. Sorry about this.

It’s Baaaack!


Evangelicals and Catholics

This is indirectly related to Joe’s post below, "Christian adoption." I just got my copy of Is the Reformation Over? An Evangelical Assesment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism, by Mark A. Noll and Carolyn Nystrom. If you have read it, I would like to know what you think of it.

Christian adoption: Catholics need not apply?

Steve Dillard, the animating spirit behind Southern Appeal, has a personal blog, on which he posted this item, regarding the Mississippi office of Bethany Christian Services, a faith-based adoption organization.

It seems that the Mississippi office (unlike the
national organization, which does not in principle object to helping Catholics, but lets each state affiliate make its own decisions) will not provide its services to Catholics because "[i]t has been our understanding that Catholicism does not agree with our Statement of Faith." Here’s the Statement of Faith. According to the Catholic couple that was turned away, their priest "told them it did not conflict with Catholic teaching."

I can imagine two possible points of doctrinal conflict--the assertion of the "final authority" of Scripture and the affirmation of "salvation by grace alone"--but I am no more than an armchair theologian who can imagine a number of ways of parsing what Bethany says it believes and how the Mississippi priest and his parishoners understand it.

For me, the larger issue has to do with how we regard affirmations of faith. How far do we go in investigating the bona fides of those who make a profession of faith when, say, they join a church? We take them at their word, do we not, assuming that only God can know what’s in their hearts. If the couple, and their priest, affirm Bethany’s statement, how can Bethany then say that it cannot be so?

I, by the way, do not object to Bethany’s demand that adoptive couples affirm its statement of faith. Even the fact that Bethany receives support from the proceeds of Mississippi’s Choose Life license plate program does not pose a legal problem. According to this article,

Though the fee passes through state coffers, it is considered a private donation, said Kathy Waterbury of the Mississippi Tax Commission.

"They aren’t public funds in that we are collecting money on behalf of the organization the tag represents," she said.

Of course, Bethany now has a massive public relations problem in Mississippi and across the country, as, for example,
this editorial indicates. The Knippenberg family has in the past supported Bethany, both directly and through our church. As we make further inquiries, we are reconsidering our support.

Top Rated Beers

The Corner at ’National Review Online’ proves useful in many ways.

Ms Lopez provides a useful link here to the top rated beers in the world.

Yes, Sierra is excellent but don’t forget the little known Goose Island Honker’s Ale out of Chicago.

Joe Wilson Equals Titus Oates

Michael Barone says all that needs to be said about Joe Wilson.

The left-wing keepers of the Modern Adminstrative State look out their windows and ask who is the most effective conservative in the land and then try to destroy them. That’s the story behind the attacks on Karl Rove, Tom DeLay, etc.

The Harry Potter passion

I had to watch the Harry Potter madness from a distance, since I was travelling. Joe mentions that he was picking up the family copy in the morning. Well, I can tell you that my two Harry Potter kids (Becky and Johnny) had each ordered a copy, as did my wife. We don’t share Rowling books in our house! They went down to the local (small) bookstore at eight to pick up their tickets that would allow them to pick their three copies at midnight. Their numbers were in the high forties, hundreds of people were there at midnight. And if this isn’t bad enough, they actually re-read all the previous volumes (for the fourth or fifth time, I can’t remember) during the last month. They wanted to be prepared. The first thing Becky said to me when I got home was not, "Hi Dad, it’s good to see you, how was your trip," but this: "[character name] died." The whole phenomenon is quite remarkable, and I’m glad of it. I explained Johnny’s first encounter with Harry Potter when he was eleven years old (he is now seventeen; Becky is twenty-one) here. He is still enthralled. Good for him. J.K. Rowling made $36 million in one day. Good for her.

A good ride

I got back this afternoon. A good 900 mile ride to Washington and back. It was hot and humid for the whole ride. The thunderstorms were unpleasant at times, especially on Thursday afternoon east of Latrobe, on the Lincoln Highway. About fifty miles in heavy rain. With a naked bike, you feel every drop at first and then you just feel the bathtub. After the first three minutes of the rain, it just doesn’t matter; besides, twenty minutes after the rain stopped, I was dry. It was like going from a washing machine into a dryer. The bike was flawless and comfortable. Great machine. Not exactly a vacation, but it was close.

Supreme Court Speculation

Like the old E.F. Hutton commercial, when William Kristol talks, everybody listens. He prediceted that O’Connor would resign before Rehnquist but now backs off his prediction that Bush will appoint Alberto Gonzalez.

Here Kristol speculates on Bush’s upcoming nomination. Kristol believes that Laura Bush’s comments that she thinks it would be a good idea if her husband appoints a woman is a polite way of letting Gonzalez know that he is not going to get the nomination.

Kristol argues that today, unlike 1981 when O’Connor was appointed, that there is a deep bench of well-qualified female consitutionalists. Kristol writes: "For now, he just has to worry about the O’Connor vacancy. For that seat, President Bush would improve the Court by appointing any from a long list of well-qualified women. Among them are federal appellate judges like Edith Jones, Edith Brown Clement, and Priscilla Owen on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Janice Rogers Brown on the D.C. Circuit, Karen Williams on the 4th Circuit, and Alice Batchelder on the 6th Circuit; distinguished law professors like Mary Anne Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard, and Lillian R. BeVier, John S. Shannon Professor of Law at Virginia; and state court judges like the impressive Maura D. Corrigan, who served on the Michigan Court of Appeals from 1992 to 1998, and has been on the Michigan Supreme Court since then, including a stint as chief justice. And the list goes on." In a couple of weeks, we can check and see if Kristol’s sources are correct. I’m bettng that the appointment will be someone from Texas.

I share Kristol’s admiration of Maura Corrigan on the Michigan Supreme Court. The Michigan Supreme Court is the best in the country. With Corrigan, and Justices Steven Markman, Clifford Taylor and Bob Young, Michigan can count on four solid votes to uphold the U.S. and Michigan Constitution. It would be a disaster for Michigan if Corrigan were appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, as that would give Governor Jennifer Granholm an appointment to the Michigan Supreme Court and the Constitutionalists would then be in the minority on the seven member Court.

Islam and "Calvinist values" in the Netherlands

Today’s NYT had this interesting op-ed, on "the end of the Holland of Erasmus and Spinoza," marked, the author, the Dutch Jewish novelist Leon de Winter, says, by the assassinations of Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh, two odd, and in the latter case unlikeable, public figures.

De Winter argues that the upheavals of 1968 hit the Netherlands harder than any other European country, with "the news media, politicians and artists gnaw[ing] away at the traditional values of Calvinistic civic society." At the same time a large population of "guest workers" from Morocco arrived to provide unskilled labor in a prosperous economy. When the demand for their labor declined, the Moroccans didn’t go home, but remained, in effect as wards of the generous Dutch welfare state. According to de Winter, "Many of these young men [the children of the first generation of immigrants] have found an expression for their growing sense of frustration, alienation and anger in orthodox Islam. They have no use for Holland’s tolerance of alternative lifestyles, or for its professional blasphemers."

Here, in a nutshell, is de Winter’s argument: the transgressions for which Dutch society is famous (or infamous) once rested on (and took advantage of) solid religio-cultural social capital ("Calvinist values"). Those have weakened (see, for example, de Winter’s commentary on the murder of Theo van Gogh), and, obviously, the Muslim immigrants never shared them. But the "salvation" of Dutch civil society can be sought only here: we must "somehow stimulate young Muslims to identify with the Calvinist values of the majority."

What I find most interesting here is that a self-consciously Jewish Dutch intellectual--whose debt to Lee Harris and Robert Kagan, among others, is made clear here--is calling for a revival and spread of Calvinism, or rather the "Calvinist values" that traditionally buttressed Dutch toleration. Here’s a taste of a long article ("Wake up, we’re at war!") published in August, 2004 my quick and dirty translation from the German):

On the one hand there are Europeans and Americans who are convinced that we have earned Islamic hatred because of our deeds....

Others, among them American conservatives, "born again" Protestants, "neocons," and Jews of varying intellectual tendencies, observe that the current problems of the Arab world are only in small part the consequence of western misdeeds, but rather have to do above all with specific Arab-Islamic conditions. This group recognizes in the hostility of Islamism the contemporary form of something for which there is no other word than "evil."

Religious as well as non-religious people can begin something with this terminology. The religious understand it as a firm theological given; to the non-religious, it seems to be the only thing that can encompass the mass murders of the past century and the drive to annihilation that is unique to Islam.

The European Jews with whom I have spoken about these themes since September 11th belong for the most part among "those, for whom the category ’enemy’ is suggestive for the way they organize human experience.

For de Winter, the cultural of toleration in which Jews can live and prosper has a religious source. The question is whether it can be effectively transmitted as secularized "values," or whether the ground on which disaffected Muslims can be met can be anything other than genuine religion itself. For more, go here (Kurds in the Bible Belt), here, and here (on the different challenge on Christianity in Africa).

Being feared and not hated: How the US got control of a town in the Sunni triangle

The study of great books is not an academic exercise: it’s supposed to help us to understand how the world works. In one of those famous books, a great Florentine student of politics and war says that to maintain your state and security, "it is better to be feared than loved". At the very least, a person should not be hated, which can be avoided if you do not take the "property and women" of those under your authority.

This enduring lesson is brought home in an unusually interesting and balanced article from The New York Times on how the US military got control of a Sunni insurgent hotbed in northern Iraq. By being incredibly patient, flexible, and willing to work with what they had in front of them, Captain Kevin Burke and his men struck a delicate balance between cultivating former regime elements who would cooperate and rounding up those who would not (and figuring out which was which). According to the piece, the Sunni villagers began to provide Company C with some very good intelligence that led to the capture of "Mohammed Shakara, Al Qaeda’s leader for northern Iraq and its biggest city, Mosul." The intelligence flowed once the Americans showed that they were serious about keeping order but did not want to rule the place by themselves. The Americans are not loved in that town, but neither are they hated -- except by the irreconciliable jihadists. They still have to watch their backs, but now they are feared and even respected in a certain way. As Capt. Burke says, that’s as good as the "reality" of the situation permits.

No doubt, the Florentine thinker would be proud.

Quiz for NTLers

Hugh Hewitt links to this online quiz, which tests to see what sci-fi or fantasy character you are most like. I am Elrond. The
Powerline guys are Yoda. I suspect Schramm will turn out to be Aragorn or James T. Kirk (two other high scoring options).

The top-scoring character is Galadriel. Perhaps Bush can name her to the Supreme Court.

She Turned Me Into a Newt!!

Don’t miss John Tierney in the New York Times today, writing on the non-scandal of the whole Plame Game.

Tierney gets bonus points for making reference to the best movie ever, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Take Back the Memorial

I encourage interested readers to sign on to this internet petition, against the attempts to diminish the importance of 9/11 by turning the World Trade Center site into a generalized monument to all of history’s victims. The following is the text of the petition:

We, the undersigned, believe that the World Trade Center Memorial should stand as a solemn remembrance of those who died on September 11th, 2001, and not as a journey of history’s "failures" or as a debate about domestic and foreign policy in the post-9/11 world. Political discussions have no place at the World Trade Center September 11th memorial, and the International Freedom Center honors no one by making excuses for the perpetrators of this heinous crime. The memorial should be about what happened that day, about the brave heroes who risked their lives so selflessly, and about the innocent lives that were lost... nothing more.

Corzine’s Future

From the looks of this long article, Jon Corzine’s run for New Jersey governor this year is just a prelude to running for president.   

After midnight

Where will you be? I may be at a local bookstore, picking up the family copy of the new Harry Potter book. If not then, then first thing Saturday morning. My wife gets first crack; then I get to read it when she’s not reading it to our son. Jonathan V. Last offers one excuse to read it for those in need of an excuse.

Update: If you need more incentive, see this and this, which excerpt this book and describe the argument of this one.

Update #2: Didn’t go last night, since I was distracted by a crowd of adults and children at our house, but went first thing this morning and picked up our reserved copy without standing in line. Now my wife will not speak to me until she’s finished reading the book.

Wilson, Plame, Rove

For more on this "Washington blood sport", which has descended into farce, go here, here, and here.

Note the headline on the NYT story ("Rove Reportedly Held Phone Talk on C.I.A. Officer"), and compare it to those of the Washington Post ("Rove Confirmed Plame Indirectly, Lawyer Says") and Washington Times ("Rove Learned CIA Agent’s Name From Novak").

Bad craziness at Baylor

Hunter Baker calls our attention to this latest bit of weirdness in Waco--a private detective, purporting to work for unnamed "rich and powerful" people, investigating the interim president, Bill Underwood, by approaching his friends and supporters. Say what?

Francis Beckwith has more, with especially bitter commentary on the shenanigans at an on-line bulletin board. Here, also, is a brief CT article that summarizes developments over the last couple of months.

A teachable moment

Following Cal Thomas, Richard Reeb argues that the President should act as a "republican schoolmaster," using this opportunity to remind us of the first principles of the Constitution, i.e., the role the constitution plays in fulfilling the principles of republican self-government. This requires that he nominate a smart person (or smart people), who is (or are) faithful to these principles and that he and his Senate allies be intransigent in their own adherence to and articulation of these principles.

There is no way, I am convinced (most recently by this), that the nomination fight can avoid being nasty, so there is no reason to conciliate on matters of principle (by choosing a so-called "moderate"). Let’s hope that there are men and women of intelligence and high principle who have the stomach for it.

Harmful Aid to Africa

Kenyan economist, James Shikwati, made an unusual argument about the West’s well-intentioned efforts to end poverty in Africa (in this interview in Der Spiegel): “For God’s sake, please just stop!”

What’s wrong with our aid? A lot: “Huge bureaucracies are financed, corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. ... If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn’t even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid... Unfortunately, the Europeans’ devastating urge to do good can no longer be countered with reason.”

Read the whole thing (Hat tip to David Warren).

And We Needed this Law Why?

Bernie Ebbers gets 25 years in the slammer for his role in the Worldcom fraud, merely the latest in a string of mostly successful convictions of corporate wrongdoers. (So far only Scruggs has been acquitted.) Watch for all the Enron guys to go down.

All of which suggests that the panic to pass Sarbanes-Oxley was unnecessary, doesn’t it? We’re convicting corporate wrongdoing just fine without it, and I suspect the sentences Ebbers, Koslowski and others are getting is plenty deterrent.

Now, the defense of Sarbanes-Oxley is that it should help prevent corporate fraud, so that we don’t have to prosecute people like Ebbers ever again. But the cost is way too high. The Wall Street Journal reports this morning (available online to subscribers only, alas), that public companies are spending nearly $6 billion a year to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley, but this number is surely the tip of the visible iceberg that is sinking lots of productive capital. The real cost is surely much higher. And for what?

The Journal adds one other significant tidbit that should be of interest to Ohio and elsewhere: Sarbanes-Oxley is leading to more outsourcing. Money graph:

"An increasing number of companies are looking to India’s information-technology outsourcing firms to cut the cost and time needed to comply with the [Sarbanes-Oxley] law, say analysts, consultants, and Indian entrepreneurs."

Democrats on SCOTUS

Powerline offers some commentary on this op-ed lamenting the disarray of the Democratic leadership. I think that there might be a method to the madness: the more semi-plausible names the Democrats mention, the more pressure on the President (at least from the the punditacracy) to meet them "halfway." Anything other than a smart, principled jurisprudential conservative will be a victory for the Democrats.

Your Government at Work

From skepticseye:

Apparently the US Patent office has rejected an application from that Bay Area institution “Dykes on Bikes” to register their name. Yet “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” had no trouble registering its name, according to sources quoted in the article.

Germany pointed out that the case for “Queer Eye” was supported by a deep- pocketed television network. “And we’re a nonprofit group full of working- class women,” she said. The patent office’s Roberts said she was unfamiliar with the “Queer” case but that apparently “queer” was deemed not to have been as vulgar as “dyke.”

You get stuff like this when the government directs, case-by-case, who gets something and who doesn’t.

GOP and African-Americans

President Bush and Ken Mehlman are on the stump.

Brooks on McConnell

David Brooks urges the President to nominate Michael McConnell because "[i]deas drive history, so you want to pick the person with the biggest brain."

My biggest beef with his case for McConnell is that he mislabels him as a "neutralist" in religion matters, when I think he’s better characterized as a pluralist or accommodationist. A couple of passages for McConnell’s scholarship will help put some flesh on the bones on this technical seeming distinction:

Liberal political theory thus favored religion, but it did not favor any one religion. It guaranteed religious freedom in the hope and expectation that religious observance would flourish, and with it morality and self-restraint among the people.

"Accommodation of Religion" (1986)

The ideal of free exercise of that people are different and that those differences are precious and must not be disturbed.... The ideal of free exercise is counter-assimilationist: it strives to allow individuals of different religious faiths to maintain their differences in the face of powerful pressures to conform.

"Free Exercise Revisionism and the Smith Decision" (1990)

Obviously there can be disagreement regarding the degree of pluralism we can accommodate and the extent of civic education the state can undertake, not to mention regarding the degree to which liberal theory is "merely" procedural or substantive, dependent upon or hostile to revealed religion. But there is no doubt that McConnell is one of the most (if not the most) thoughtful, learned, and theoretically sophisticated defenders of and advocates for religious liberty working and writing in our time.

Cultivating liberal student activists

This article describes this conference. The conference organizer’s rationale is here. Of course he has to make the case for organizing students, but the real political problems for liberals are discussed here, here, here, and here. If you haven’t yet had your morning does of caffeine (and need it), dwell on this little gem:

Now clearly, liberals do predominate in college and university faculties. That shouldn’t surprise anyone: Academic inquiry, and modest faculty salaries, tend to attract liberal minds, just as, say, tobacco industry lobbyist positions tend to attract conservatives.

But ask students whether most of their liberal professors spend their time working with them to organize for political change on electoral reform or clean energy. Most professors focus on their scholarship, or perhaps their classroom skills. Sometimes it takes a determined, organizing effort from outside to connect like-minded students and professors on a campus for extracurricular efforts to discuss real-world issues and work for change. Conservatives have done this effectively; progressives haven’t.

The relative effectiveness of conservatives in maintaining a presence on campus and cultivating some young people has more to do with factors noted here and here.

If you haven’t yet had your fill, you can scroll through the conference blog here.

Update: I should have noted Charles Kesler’s worries about conservatism. My favorite line:

It is one thing (a blessing, I can tell you) to grow up reading and watching Bill Buckley; another to grow up reading and watching Bill O’Reilly.

Wilson, Plame, Rove and Miller

Win Myers calls our attention to this op-ed, which says all that we need to know about Karl Rove’s possible involvement in this affair, and this rather interesting speculation by John Podhoretz.

More on stem cells

Here’s an account of a hearing held yesterday on a stem cell research alternative I mentioned here. Ramesh Ponnuru has some good questions for those who oppose this but are still willing to destroy human embryos. QD tries to explain what they might be up to.

For other accounts of the politics of the competing proposals, go here and here. Here’s the Council on Bioethics White Paper that details the science of it all. Robert P. George, joined by Mary Ann Glendon and Alfonso Gomez-Lobo, offers the following observations:

Of the four possible methods explored in our White Paper, the one that has attracted the most intense interest outside the Council is altered nuclear transfer. There are two major concerns: (1) the question whether the entity produced would be truly non-embryonic, and not a disabled embryo or an embryo genetically programmed for a premature death; and (2) the question whether ova could be supplied without subjecting women to the painful and possibly dangerous process of superovulation. Neither of these questions is, strictly speaking, ethical, though both have what I consider to be decisive ethical implications. Like Dr. Hurlbut, who has taken the lead in formulating this proposal, I will not support altered nuclear transfer as a method of obtaining human pluripotent stem cells unless it can be shown that (1) the procedure truly and reliably produces nonembryonic entities, rather than damaged embryos, and (2) it is possible to carry out altered nuclear transfer on the scale required without subjecting women to harmful and exploitative practices.

I recognize that some people have objections to altered nuclear transfer even if these conditions are met. Dr. Krauthammer, for example, objects even if the sources of stem cells created can be shown truly to be nonembryonic. Because Dr. Krauthammer also objects (as I do) to the creation for destruction of true embryos (by cloning or any other method), I take his concerns very seriously and welcome his criticisms of my own more permissive view. I would not finally endorse altered nuclear transfer using human cells prior to engaging the argument with him more fully and considering with the utmost care the considerations he adduces against it.

It is more difficult to credit the ethical objections to altered nuclear transfer of those who support the creation of true embryos to be destroyed in biomedical research. How can it be right deliberately to create and destroy true human embryos—beings that no one can deny are human individuals in the embryonic stage of development—yet somehow wrong to produce disorganized growths that are the moral equivalent of gamete tumors rather than embryos?

One final point: the effort in which I am happy to join to find morally legitimate means of obtaining embryonic or embryonic-type stem cells should not be interpreted as indicating any acceptance of the hyping of the therapeutic promise of embryonic stem cell research that has marred the debate over the past four years. This promotion of exaggerated expectations dishonors science and shames those responsible for it by cruelly elevating the hopes of suffering people and members of their families. It should be condemned.

SCOTUS yet again

Ken Masugi notes that this article reports that "the two sides have consulted the Constitution and reread the pertinent Federalist Papers, and both are looking at the record of other presidents for evidence to support their interpretation of what the consultation requires." Good, though as Ken also notes, no one seems to be doing any really deep thinking.

A number of observers have also remembered that President Clinton, who in 1992 won a significantly smaller percentage of the popular vote than did President Bush (certainly a constitutionally irrelevant consideation), did not feel compelled to maintain the balance on the Court when he appointed the "extremist" Ruth Bader Ginsburg to replace Byron White. This despite the fact that, at the time (another constitutionally irrelevant consideration) Democrats controlled the Presidency and both houses of Congress, which, some are now saying, means that we should hesitate before letting yet another branch fall to this partisan hegemony. Indeed, I think that the Democrats ought to follow the Republican practice during the Clinton Administration and essentially let the President appoint any distinguished legal thinker (an appelation I’ll concede to Ginsburg) he wishes.

My final observation is that the willingness of the Democrats to put forward the names of Hispanic judges seems to be an attempt to weaken the President politically, should he not now choose to go in this direction. One wishes in vain that everyone, especially on the Republican side, would simply stop discussing the "politics" (especially the constituency-based politics) of the nomination. For good political advice regarding how the Republicans should approach this process, go here. Hat tip: Michael DeBow at Southern Appeal.

NY Times Op-ed Black Hole

Long-suffering New York Times readers might have hoped for a slight respite from the frivolity of Maureen Dowd when she went on leave to write a book (can’t wait for that major tome), but today the Times fills her spot with this piece of drivel. It praises Jimmy Carter’s "malaise" speech--yeah, that’s the ticket! Sarah Vowell, the author, is a contributor to "public radio." Figures. Almost makes you pine for Dowd to hurry up and finish her book and get back to her column.

Among other complaints, Vowell deplores Bush administration changes that supposedly make it easier to log forests. Since the New York Times requires several dozen acres of trees per day for its press run, this is an especially rich comin irony.

No Left Turns Mug Drawing Winners for June

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

Bradley Akin

Mindy McLaughlin

Tammi Worrell

David Smith

Gerard Delaney

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 July’s drawing.

A Cross of Green?

Several weeks (or maybe it was months) ago, Joe Knippenberg posted several interesting items about the nascent evangelical-environmental dialogue. I was intrigued, and have written my own commentary on the matter for AEI’s Environmental Policy Outlook series, which you can find here.

On the road

I’ll be on the road for the next five days (Pennsylvania and Washington). The bad news is that it is a business trip, the good news is I’m riding my bike! I’ll check in on Monday.

Gonzales as originalist proponent of judicial restraint

Christianity Today’s weblog makes the case. You be the judge.

I should note that I find the defense heartening, though CT’s Ted Olsen notes that a more important reason not to nominate Gonzales may be the requirement, noted by Edward Whalen, that Gonzales "would have to recuse himself from virtually every case of importance to the administration." I also can’t imagine a hearing on Gonzales that didn’t prominently feature pontifications about Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, surely not the most illuminating and productive use of Senatorial time.

Tax Cuts Vindicated--Again

Don’t miss today’s Wall Street Journal editorial paqe (unfortunately available online for subscribers only), where there are two editorials on the salutary effects of the 2003 Bush tax cuts. First, revenues are soaring beyond projections, and the deficit is falling fast. (If the GOP could show some spending restraint, we’d reach a balanced budget quickly). Second, business investment--the bedrock of future economic gains--is up sharply, and began its uptrend immediately after the tax cuts took effect in 2003.

As the editorial reminded us, Reagan quipped that "No one calls it ’Reaganomics’ anymore now that it is working."

Buy Exxon Gas

In other news, the usual lefties have announced a boycott of Exxon-Mobil because the company doesn’t tow the line on environmental correctness. So go ahead and top of your tank at the nearest Exxon station.

Did He Blink, or Is This Rope-a-Dope?

Harry Reid says in today’s New York Times that he does not anticipate a filibuster against Bush’s Supreme Court nominee. Reid might be wanting to restraint the hot-heads like Schumer in his caucus, or he might be trying to lull Bush into nominating someone who he can claim constitutes an "extreme circumstance."

If Nan Aron had her way...

Any Bush nominee would constitute an "extreme circumstance."

No more textbooks

This might be a move in the right direction, especially regarding history and social studies classes. An Arizona high school has stopped using textbooks and will instead rely on the internet. "Calvin Baker, superintendent of Vail Unified School District, said the move to electronic materials gets teachers away from the habit of simply marching through a textbook each year.

He noted that the AIMS test now makes the state standards the curriculum, not textbooks. Arizona students will soon need to pass Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards to graduate from high school." In history, social studies, government, and civics courses, they ought to make use of original documents.

The Case for Nukes

For those worried about climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, here’s a quiz: Which nation has the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per dollar of economic output?


Yes, that’s right France. By a large margin. How? Simple: they generate 70 percent of their electricity with--gasp!!--nuclear power, which has no greenhouse gas emissions.

Suggests a rather obvious strategy if the industrialized world is serious about greenhouse gas emissions. The Economist has more to say about this very idea here.

Straussians for an independent Alberta?

I’m sure Karl Rove and other evil neo-conservatives have their fingers in this somewhere. Here’s Leon Craig’s site at the University of Alberta.

Hat tip: The Politic.

Big counterintelligence meeting in London

This New York Times story is interesting. It reveals that there was a two hour meeting in London--a kind of international counterintelligence summit meeting--hosted by Scotland Yard and MI5. Almost every European country sent representatives. It is said that this was necessary because the Brits have no leads. It seems clear that everyone thinks the next attack could be in their country. The attacks in London is not seen as the end. London is also working especially closely with Spanish authorities.

Rove and Plame

Here is the much tauted Newsweek article on the fact that Karl Rove talked with the Time reporter, Matt Cooper. Note that what Rove said is not what any lawyer would take to be illegal. Is this all there is? Powerline has more detail, and, since John is a lawyer, his views on all this are more to be trusted than mine. Also note this, kind-of-amusing thing from Craig Crawford:

If Karl Rove planned this -- which I doubt -- he really is a genius:

1.) He leaks to Time’s Matt Cooper in such a way that he avoids the law’s intent requirement for criminal liability (Newsweek notes that Cooper’s email shows nothing indicating Rove knew or revealed that Valerie Plame was an undercover agent, only that she worked at the CIA).

2.) The ensuing grand jury investigation dramatically weakens the news media and future leakers, as reporters must decide whether to testify or go to jail, and even turns Rove’s foes in the public against the reporters involved because they are seen as protecting him.

In other words, by making himself a protected source who loses that protection, Rove makes it easier for the government to use federal courts to target all leakers. This would give Machiavelli a migraine.

Fourth SEAL found

CNN reports that the body of the last missing Navy SEAL has been recovered in Afghanistan. He died fighting. He was never captured. He died the same way the two other SEALS did who were found a few days earlier. RIP. One SEAL escaped, wounded. Wretchard explains what this means, and celebrates the American fighting man.

Bin Laden understood and accepted that American logistics, technology and science would be superior to his own. What he was less prepared to believe was the possibility that their fighting spirit would be equal or greater than his. Sixty two years ago the Imperial Japanese Navy fought the USN for three straight days and nights in the waters surrounding Guadalcanal, from November 12-15, 1942. Both sides fought at point-blank range in some cases. Two USN Admirals, Scott and Callahan, died in a single night. Still the IJN and USN came on. Only after the USS Washington sank the battlecruiser Kirishima on November 15th did the Japanese break off. But it was not the material loss that shocked the Japanese: losses were about even on both sides; it was the realization that USN would not give up.

It is the canonical assumption of those who set out to conquer the world that all men are not created equal: that there are ubermensch and untermensch, men of divine descent and mongrel races, jihadis and infidels; that somehow these differences in quality will allow the chosen few to dominate the many. Yet in each case these beliefs have proven wrong, whether in the snows of Russia, the waters of Ironbottom Sound, or in the mountains of Afghanistan.

The right to be wrong

William Raspberry hands the mike to Kevin "Seamus" Hasson to promote his forthcoming bookThe Right to Be Wrong: Ending the Culture War Over Religion in America.

It goes without saying that the right is not unlimited, but that’s not on Raspberry’s or Hasson’s agenda this morning.

Liberal last stand?

This WaPo article argues that the stakes are extremely high for liberal interest groups in the Supreme Court nomination battle:

After failing repeatedly in recent years to stop the advance of a conservative agenda by the Republican-controlled White House and Congress, a once-powerful liberal coalition is making what amounts to a last stand over control of the Supreme Court.

If the Coalition for a Fair and Independent Judiciary the lobbyists head is unsuccessful, it will risk not only seeing the courts tilt decidedly more conservative but also seeing the liberal movement lose further credibility as an organizing and advocacy force in Washington. "The stakes are enormous -- they could not be any higher for us," Aron said. "Progressive organizations throughout the country understand how much is at stake with a change on the Supreme Court."

This is, of course, a little overblown, but the Bush Administration can’t afford to hand them even a proverbial moral victory.

Oh yeah, and
the meet-ups have begun.

"Will Britain go back to sleep?"

So asks Mark Steyn. Read the whole thing.   

Politics and population shifts

Donald Lambro reports on a census projection regarding long-erm population shifts to the south and west. By 2011, Florida will supplant New York as the third most populous state. According to Merle Black,

"The net beneficiary of this will continue to be the Republican Party because the population shift is moving into an environment that is heavily dominated by the Republicans," says Merle Black, a professor of politics and government at Emory University and author of books on political shifts in the South.

"In the 2002 and 2004 exit polls, we saw for the first time a majority of Southern white voters identifying themselves as Republicans and Democratic identification falling to a low 20 [percent] to 25 percent," Mr. Black says.

This doesn’t mean that Democrats cannot win, but population shifts give the GOP "a long-term structural advantage," he says, "and assuming they nominate credible candidates, they start with a strong base."

He adds: "The Republicans will continue to be the dominant party in the South for the foreseeable future."

Read the whole thing.

Blood feud, not war

Lee Harris thinks that "the war on terror," is misnamed. It is not a war at all, as we in the West have come to understand that term: War is a for a reason (instrument of policy, for land, etc.), and it has an end. He thinks that our current "war" against terror is really something like a blood feud, and his thought is not entirely crazy:

In the blood feud, the orientation is not to the future, as in war, but to the past. In the feud you are avenging yourself on your enemy for something that he did in the past. Al Qaeda justified the attack on New York and Washington as revenge against the USA for having defiled the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia by its military presence during the First Gulf War. In the attack on London, the English were being punished for their involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the blood feud, unlike war, you have no interest in bringing your enemy to his knees. You are not looking for your enemy to surrender to you; you are simply interested in killing some of his people in revenge for past injuries, real or imaginary -- nor does it matter in the least whether the people you kill today were the ones guilty of the past injuries that you claim to be avenging. In a blood feud, every member of the enemy tribe is a perfectly valid target for revenge. What is important is that some of their guys must be killed -- not necessarily anyone of any standing in their community. Just kill someone on the other side, and you have done what the logic of the blood feud commands you to do.

In the blood feud there is no concept of decisive victory because there is no desire to end the blood feud. Rather the blood feud functions as a permanent "ethical" institution -- it is the way of life for those who participate in it; it is how they keep score and how they maintain their own rights and privileges. You don’t feud to win, you feud to keep your enemy from winning -- and that is why the anthropologist of the Bedouin feud, Emrys Peters, has written the disturbing words: The feud is eternal.

London as home for Islamic extremists

A front page story in the New York Times reviews something that really isn’t news at all (except maybe for The Times): There are plenty of extremist Muslims in England recruting for terrorists and instigating hate. Steve Coll, writing in the Washington Post, has more detail. A sample:

As bin Laden’s ideology of making war on the West spread in the years before Sept. 11, 2001, London became "the Star Wars bar scene" for Islamic radicals, as former White House counterterrorism official Steven Simon called it, attracting a polyglot group of intellectuals, preachers, financiers, arms traders, technology specialists, forgers, travel organizers and foot soldiers.

Today, al Qaeda and its offshoots retain broader connections to London than to any other city in Europe, according to evidence from terrorist prosecutions. Evidence shows at least a supporting connection to London groups or individuals in many of the al Qaeda-related attacks of the past seven years. Among them are the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania; the assassination of Afghan militia leader Ahmed Shah Massoud on Sept. 9, 2001; outer rings of the Sept. 11 conspiracy, involving Moussaoui and the surveillance of financial targets in Washington and New York; Reid’s attempted shoe bomb attack in December 2001; and the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002.

The evidence in these and other cases describes al Qaeda connections here as remarkably diverse, ranging from the core organization’s early formation through its phase of elaborately planned global strikes between 1999 and 2001, to its more recent period of diffuse franchises and younger volunteers to an attack this week that authorities here said bears al Qaeda’s stamp. In the 1980s and 1990s, between 300 and 600 British citizens passed through Afghan training camps, officials here have acknowledged. Today, several recent cases suggest the seeding of a new generation of British residents who traveled as volunteers to fight with the insurgency in Iraq.

Also see this and this, both from the London Times, for more on home grown terrorism and the way terrorists recruit students with technical expertise. The London Times also reports that the mastermind of the Madrid bombing "is emerging as a figure in the hunt for the London bombers."

Squandered victory?

Reuel Marc Gerecht reviews two books on Iraq, one by Larry Diamond and one by David L. Phillips. Both accuse the administration of incompetent post-war occupation. Diamond is a "deeply conflicted" liberal, who is worth reading. There are nuggets of interesting information in the review. 

Wretchard is public

It turns out that Wretchard of the Belmont Club is Richard Fernandez, a Philipino-born Australian. Wretchard is the name of his cat. He says he was compelled to make his identity public because of this article. You should continue to pay attention to his analysis of the war, and, now on the situation in the Philipines.

Supreme matters

George Will makes the case for J. Harvie Wilkinson III to be nominated for the Supreme Court. The Democrats want someone with a "big heart." Meanwhile, Ann Coulter thinks that appointing O’Connor was Reagan’s biggest mistake (I think it was supporting no fault divorce while he was governor of California). And Reuters considers what role bloggers will have in the upcoming fight(s) for the Court. This Washington Times editorial is pessimistic about the upcoming Bush choices, if history is any guide. It recounts the Republican appointment since Ike and concludes that of the 7 (out 9) justices appinted by Republican presidents, only 3 can be called conservatives (Rhenquist, Scalia, and Thomas). And Fred Barnes reminds us that Bush will get his way in the end, no matter how much Demos gripe and shout, and he has promises to keep.

Must-Read Cohen

Eliot Cohen’s ruminations on the Iraq war in today’s Washington Post are not to be missed. His son, an Army Ranger, is about to ship out.   

Old vs. New Europe, 20 Years Before Rummy

The Rumsfeldian theme of Old vs. New Europe is a bit long in the tooth by now, but in the course of doing background research on events in Poland in the 1980s I came across this prescient passage from the late Leopold Tyrmand written in 1982, shortly after martial law was declared in Poland:

A time may come when America will understand that if European civilization means not only the majesty of European culture, but also the burning courage in defense of the most fundamental values of humanness, then Western Europe is no longer heir to European civilization--Eastern Europe is.

The India Factor

Over at Powerline, John Hinderaker writes about the strikingly pro-American attitudes found in India today. I recall an international poll shortly after 9/11 showing that India had some of the highest number of people who supported the U.S. going to war for retribution. Of course, this may be pure opportunism, since our war on terror is bound to box up Pakistan, India’s mortal enemy, to some extent. But it might also have something to do with India becoming an English-speaking democracy.

I also had a conversation with an American diplomat from the region more than a year ago, who told me of the significant support India is giving to the U.S. effort. Since India can’t sent any troops to Pakistan or Afghanistan because it would be unacceptable to the Paks, etc., India’s navy is doing things such as providing harbor guard for our ships in Singapore (to prevent another Cole-style bombing). But I also get the impression that if things went bad in Pakistain, India would gladly help clean the place out.

This is a happy turnabout since, as John points out, India was for all practical purposes on the other side during the Cold War.

Catholics and evolution

Proponents of evolution have made much of Pope John Paul II’s statement, which "noted that the scientific case for evolution was growing stronger and that the theory was ’more than a hypothesis.’" Well, if they had read the whole statement, they would have noticed this as well:

Consequently, theories of evolution which, in accordance with the philosophies inspiring them, consider the mind as emerging from the forces of living matter, or as a mere epiphenomenon of this matter, are incompatible with the truth about man. Nor are they able to ground the dignity of the person.

And then they would not have been so surprised by this op-ed, which contains the following statement:

The [International Theological C]ommission’s [2004] document, however, reaffirms the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church about the reality of design in nature. Commenting on the widespread abuse of John Paul’s 1996 letter on evolution, the commission cautions that "the letter cannot be read as a blanket approbation of all theories of evolution, including those of a neo-Darwinian provenance which explicitly deny to divine providence any truly causal role in the development of life in the universe."

Furthermore, according to the commission, "An unguided evolutionary process - one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence - simply cannot exist."

The commission, I should note, was headed by Cardinal Ratzinger.

There are, of course, complicated issues here, far beyond my theoligical and scientific ken, but one thing seems clear: those evolutionists who do not leave room for a designer cannot find any comfort in anything Pope John Paul II said or in anything the Roman Catholic Church teaches.

Rick Garnett has more.

Stem cell legislation

This article suggests that the current stem cell bill, which makes it easier to create new stem cell lines from "leftover" embryos may be in trouble, in part because of Rep. Roscoe Bartlett’s competing legislation and this initiaitve.

SCOTUS matters

This WaPo article tries, not very successfully in my view, to show that there’s a division between business and social conservatives in the upcoming nomination fight. Yes, business conservatives were much happier than were social conservatives with Sandra Day O’Connor, but that doesn’t mean that GWB has to appoint another O’Connor to please them. Birnbaum and Edsall to the contrary notwithstanding, it’s entirely possible for a jurist to favor some national business legislation (under the commerce clause, for example), while arguing that matters like abortion fall under state jurisdiction.

E.J. Dionne, J.r thinks we should have a political fight over the Supreme Court nominees, because, if you look at the numbers, Democrats didn’t really lose the last few elections, so they deserve to have their voices heard. Mr. Dionne, please read the Constitution! His other reason--that politicizing the nomination process is preferable to the politics of personal destruction, which is all opponents are left with if they can’t make political points--would be persuasive if political argument didn’t almost always include personal destruction as well. Last I looked, electoral politics included personal attacks as much as, if not more than, policy debates. If he really wanted to elevate the tone of the nomination process, he would urge Democrats to act like a loyal opposition, essentially giving the President the nominee he wants and then fighting the next election in part over differences in judicial philosophy.

Finally, the appellate decision in this case only serves to turn the heat up more. Howard Bashman covers it here and here.

Update: Professor Bainbridge addressed the business vs. social conservative issue quite effectively about a month ago. He recommended Michael McConnell as a nominee who would appeal to both sides.

Son as hero

The father of a Navy SEAL, Danny P. Dietz, Jr., whose body was recovered in Afghanistan on the Fourt of July mourns his son.

Top sellers at Amazon

J.K. Rowling tops the list of its 25 best selling authors that Amazon has put together to celebrate its tenth anniversary. Shakespeare came in 26th. But I say not marble, nor gilded monuments of princes, nor amusing fantasies of a monographist, shall outlive the Bard’s powerful rhyme. He taught me language; and my profit on’t is, I know how to curse. O heavy ignorance! O plague and madness! O withered truth! Ancient damnation on these soulless mortals!

McConnell and SCOTUS

Scott Johnson at Powerline offers an extended defense of Judge Michael McConnell against this vicious hit from the right. Everything I know about McConnell (whom I have known for 30 years) suggests that Johnson is right and the author of the hit piece is wrong and misguided.

Update: There’s more here and here. As bonus the latter includes Ken Masugi’s choice comments on this revealingly nasty piece by Jonathan Chait.

Update #2: Andrew Hyman, with whom I engaged in a long colloquy in the comments section, has posted the relevant passages from McConnell’s Appeals Court confirmation hearings here. Read them for yourself and then read the comments. Hyman persists in placing the most damaging possible construction on McConnell’s testimony, which is rather carefully phrased. And note that he persists in a post made after he said (comment # 10, at 7:24 p.m. Sunday evening) that he had received "some pretty solid assurances about Judge McConnell from other people I’ve communicated with, so I don’t expect to be opposing his nomination." I can’t understand how he thinks offering his construction of the evidence doesn’t amount to opposing a McConnell nomination. Did something happen between 7:24 p.m. and 11:11 p.m. Sunday evening? Is this confusion, a genuine change of mind or heart, or something less savory?

As for the polygamy issue, I’ll say only this: It does not amount to a constitutional right to legally-recognized and supported polygamy (analogous to the constitutional right claimed by proponents of gay marriage), but merely the right (at most) to be left alone on religious freedom grounds. A defender of an anti-polygamy law would have to--and perhaps could--offer a "compelling state interest" rationale for sanctioning this behavior, but, as McConnell notes, we’ve acquiesced in so much private "immorality," at least to the extent of leaving it alone, that it’s hard to explain legal proscription of polygamy as anything other than the product of an animus against a particular religion. But again (let me repeat this for those prone to misconstrue), leaving polygamists alone is not the same as approving them or extending the legal privileges and immunities of "one man, one woman" marriage to them. I should also say, so that I’m clear, that I am not speaking for McConnell here, but offering a speculative defense, in my own name, of what I take to be McConnell’s understanding of religious freedom (especially as articulated in his 1986 article "Accommodation of Religion").

Eat what you want

I have always known this, but now modern scientific research has shown that dieting is bad for women (and, I happen to know, also for men). Surprise, health is what is important. After a nice conversation with a student who is working on a thesis on Hector, I’m off to a big lunch. I’m happy and healthy.

Defining the Pursuit of Happiness

Darrin McMahon, in "A Right, From the Start" (Wall St. Journal, July 1), writes a deft essay on the meaning of "the pursuit of happiness," even highlighting its possible meanings from Christian, classical, and Lockean writings. Alas, he is too clever by half when he claims that Locke "never employed the specific phrase ’life, liberty, and property.’" In addition, he fails to point out that the pursuit of happiness was understood within an ordered, moral context. Here’s my letter to the editor:

Contrary to Mr. McMahon’s claim ("A Right, From the Start," July 1) that Locke never used the phrase ’life, liberty, and property," one finds this statement about why men join civil society in Locke’s _Second Treatise of Civil Government_: "for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name, _property_" (emphasis in original). I dare say this statement or some variation thereof is probably the most repeated claim of Locke’s most famous writing on the principles of government and from which Thomas Jefferson lifted phrases verbatim in drafting the Declaration of Independence.

I agree with Mr. McMahon that the American founders believed the pursuit of happiness entailed virtue or "furthering the public good." But a more obvious definition of virtue for the founders was simply good character. The pursuit of happiness did not mean licentiousness precisely because it presumed an orderly or moral use of one freedoms, whether publicly oriented or not.

The new al Qaeda?

This analysis suggests that al Qaeda is less an organization than a brand, mindset, or ideology. Thomas Friedman is singing from the same hymnbook, drawing this conclusion:

The double-decker buses of London and the subways of Paris, as well as the covered markets of Riyadh, Bali and Cairo, will never be secure as long as the Muslim village and elders do not take on, delegitimize, condemn and isolate the extremists in their midst.

Since I’m not a Hobbesian, I’m attracted to his "cultural" solution (which of course must be coupled with the most effective security measures possible, and continued vigorous prosecution of the GWOT). The question he doesn’t answer is how we "persuade" the Muslim leadership to condemn the jihadists.
Here is an account of the response offered by leaders of the British Muslim community, which is described in
this portrait.

Update: I was reminded of this smart piece, written last year.

Update #2: Powerline (naturally) has lots more, including this article about Islamist networks in the U.K., this one on radical Islamic preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri, who formerly led the Finsbury Park mosque that is widely regarded as the center of Islamicist radicalism in Great Britain, and these two columns by Christopher Hitchens, both of which are so full of choice nuggets that I dare not provide excerpts. But this quote from another article is worth highlighting:

We assume that Tony Blair has been with us on Iraq, and Britain has a robust counterterrorism strategy. But the British have a notoriously liberal perspective in interpreting laws on monitoring their radical Islamist elements," a terrorism expert, Ilan Berman of the American Foreign Policy Council, said yesterday.

Tom Cerber reminds me that the analyses published today have been around for awhile. Osama bin Laden is the Colonel Sanders of Islamic terrorism: even if he were killed or captured, his franchisees would continue doing their bloody business. Cerber notes the risk in a strategy aimed at eliminating the franchisees:

The danger to this newer strategy is that it would likely entail widening the net of operations, jeopardizing the other dimension of the fight against al-Qaeda: the propaganda war that it’s a war against extremism, not against Islam. Going after mid-level operatives is still a matter of going after extremists. However, by going after a larger group - and one further embedded in Muslim societies - one necessarily makes it more difficult to signal to the Islamic world that one is simply going after extremists.

Permit me this analogy: attacking bin Laden is like hunting sharks with harpoon guns. Hunting mid-level operatives is more like hunting smaller fish with nets. The danger with nets is that you also catch “innocent” fish like dolphin.

Update #3: Ken Masugi has more, including this from Daniel Pipes.

Last Update: Here’s a piece on the silence of the Imams since the London attacks. And another, asking "where is the Gandhi of Islam?" The best bit from the latter:

It is only when you start thinking about what we are not getting from leaders of British Muslims, and indeed Muslim religious leadership throughout the world, that you start to see how much needs doing. The moderates are not pressed hard for anything more than a general condemnation of the extremists.

When did you last hear criticisms of named extremist groups and organisations by Muslim leaders, or support for their expulsion, imprisonment or extradition? How often do you see fatwas issued against suicide bombers and other terrorists, or statements by learned men declaring that people who commit such deeds will go to hell?

When do Muslim leaders and congregations insist that a particular imam leave his mosque because of the poison that he disseminates every Friday? When did a British Muslim last go after a Muslim who advocates or practises violence with anything like the zeal with which so many went after Salman Rushdie?

Why is not more stigma attached to the Muslims who are murdering other Muslims every day in Iraq and the Middle East?

What communal protection is offered to those Muslims who really are brave and confront Islamist violence, or the poor treatment of women, or call for democracy in the Middle East? How much do mainstream political parties with Muslim councillors and candidates really insist on their religious moderation and co-opt them to extrude the bad people lurking within their communities?

I understand and accept that there are many moderates among British Muslims, but I want to know why Britain gets so pitifully little to show for their moderation.

Read the whole thing.

G8 not so Gr8

As everyone knows, Tony Blair picked "climate change" as one of the two key issues (along with Africa) to discuss at the G8 meeting going on right now. Blair’s science adviser, Sir David King, last year said that "In my view, climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today--more serious even than the threat of terrorism."

I wonder if King (or Blair) would say that now.

James Stockdale, RIP

I was on the road out in California and out of keyboard range for the last two days, and so wasn’t able to respond promptly to the sad news of the passing of Admiral James Stockdale. I recall reading some of his first writings on his prison camp experience in the late 1970s and early 1980s and thinking to myself, "This man should be be in public office."

Of course, eventually he did seek public office of sorts, as Ross Perot’s running mate in 1992, where he was thought not to have done well.

I had the privilege of sharing a couple rounds of drinks in a bar with Stockdale in the fall of 2001 (a few weeks after 9/11) at a conference where we were both speakers, and I got up the courage to ask him for his account of the infamous vice presidential debate. It seems he was mostly ignored by Perot and his campaign staff (such as it was) throughout the whole thing, to the point that about two weeks before the vice presidential debate, Stockdale called Perot and said, "Well, Ross, I haven’t heard anything about doing the debate, so I guess I’ve dodged this thing."

Perot says to him, "Oh, sorry Jim, we accepted the invitation for you. Guess we forgot to tell you." So Stockdale had no "debate prep" or rehearsals or help from Perot’s people, and little time to prepare.

I can’t help but think that Stockdale is the man Jahn McCain ought to be, but isn’t.

WSC on London

Someone on a Churchill listserv (you can sign up at posted the following quote from the Great Man today:

"London is like a pre-historic monster into whose armoured hide showers of arrows may be shot in vain"

English notes

This is an amusing, and very short, history of the English language. And this shows the difficulty of pronouncing English. Do read it aloud, and imagine a Frenchmen or a Hungarian trying it.

London Calling

Having spent the day picking blueberries and then watching news, I have nothing to add to the commentary available here and elsewhere on the terrorist attacks in London. (If it’s terrorism in London, it’s terrorism in Baghdad, Mosul, and elsewhere in Iraq and Afghanistan.) My condolences to all who suffer and grieve and my warmest wishes for success to all who are on the frontlines in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

Alberto Gonzales on Constitutional construction

We need Alberto Gonzales as a strong Attorney General in the war on terror. We do not need him on the Supreme Court, if this article is to be believed. Hat tip: Southern Appeal.

Unexploded bombs found

ABC News reports that British authorities have recovered two unexploded bombs from the scene of the terror attacks in London.

Rumsfeld on the London attack

This is Donald Rumsfeld’s statement on the terrorist attacks in London. Some lines:

Though it is not yet known with certainty precisely who is responsible, we do know terrorists’ intentions. They strike without warning and without regard for human life in the hope that they can frighten and intimidate free people -- to change our way of life. And they won’t stop until their side or our side has prevailed.

But if these terrorists thought they could intimidate the people of a great nation, they picked the wrong people and the wrong nation. For generations, tyrants, fascists, and terrorists have sought to carry out their violent designs upon the British people only to founder upon its unrelenting shores.

Before long, I suspect that those responsible for these acts will encounter British steel. Their kind of steel has an uncommon strength. It does not bend or break.

Why We Love the Brits

London Mayor, Ken Livingston, an avowed British Liberal, came out strong this morning against the terrorists and vowed that this would be no victory for them. They will lose in the ultimate objective. Good, manly statement from him. Kudos also to Tony Blair. But where are their American Liberal counterparts? It is time for American Liberals to take a lesson from the Brits. This is no game and we can little afford their silly partisan preening.

London, update

ABC News reports that there are 33 people confirmed dead and 300 injured in the the London attacks. But AP says 40 have died, and 350 injured. The Counterterrorism has most of what you need to keep up with the awful news. Also see Arthur Chrenkoff, and Tim Blair.

Animated U.S. historical atlas

This animated historical atlas of the U.S.A. is pretty good. Simple, but useful. Follow the simple instructions. It is ten minutes long.

London back in business

London transportation will be back in business by late this afternoon, with the underground running by tomorrow morning. Impressive.

High Court poker

Robert Novak is hard on President Bush. He writes that Bush is showing a "school boy" attitude in defending his friend Attorney General Gonzales, and he is the biggest obstackle to a conservative Court. And, more importantly, Novak thinks that if Bush nominates Gonzales to replace Sandra Day O’Connor, he will be doing Senator Kennedy’s bidding. My view of all this is that Bush will not nominate Gonzales to this slot (or even Rhenquist’s slot, and Novak thinks that will happen by the end of the week). The Gonzales baloon is just a gambit by the White House. Novak, and apparently everyone else, is underestimating Bush, again. This is just the first card dealt, Bush is holding the rest of the hand close to his boots. Advantage Bush, so far. It is revealing that the Democrats have adopted O’Connor as a role model for a Supreme Court justice; they cannot get anyone more liberal than her on the Court, and they know it. This is their next to the last card. Their last card will be a vehement objection to a more conservative nominee (I won’t list these aces, there are at least four) and that will be on the Judiciary Committee, and will be televised nationally. Ron Brownstein thinks that a conservative nominee will be a "deal braker," that is, the Democrats will filibuster. Even if they don’t filibuster on the Senate floor (and I hope they do),

as Hugh Hewitt says, just wait until the people get a week of Kennedy, Leahy, Schumer, et al, screaming and yelling and carrying on as they sit on the Judiciary Committee. This will be very revealing, and will have a direct effect on the 2006 (and 2008) elections, and it will not be to the Democrats’ advantage. This will be especially true if they filibuster.

Terror in London

Many people are covering the latest horror, including Instapundit, the BBC, The Belmont Club. P.M. Blair says that it is "reasonably clear" that terrorists are behind the attack. He sounded steadfast. According to Der Spiegel, al Qaeda is claiming responsibility. There is a map of where the attacks took place in London at this site (three cliks down). CNN International has a minute by minute account of the explosions.


Nice article on former Ashbrook Rebeccah Ramey in her home town newspaper, the Mount Vernon News (Ohio). Oddly, I was down in Mt. Vernon today visiting a friend (and seeing his 1929 SS100 Brough motorcycle, and the 1957 Square Four Ariel motorcycle). Amazingly, he offered to let me ride his Ariel, but I declined; the darn thing is too beautiful, too precious. Very lovely thing to offer, though. But I got to ride his Moto Guzzi! Good man, great machines.

More SCOTUS stuff

Here, via Southern Appeal, is a summary of what many of the possible nominees have said about abortion, which Michael Barone regards as "yesterday’s issue."

Filibuster deal dead?

This article suggests that a number of the Democratic signatories have interpretations of "extraordinary circumstances" that include "extreme" ideology or "activism," both of which could be attached to any number of potential Bush nominees. Here are the relevant quotes:

"In my mind, extraordinary circumstances would include not only extraordinary personal behavior but also extraordinary ideological positions," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), a moderate the White House has been hoping to enlist to give bipartisan backing to the nominee.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of the 14 who fashioned the agreement, said through a spokesman: "A nominee’s political ideology is only relevant if it has been shown to cloud their interpretation of the law. . . . A pattern of irresponsible judgment, where decisions are based on ideology rather than the law, could potentially be ’extraordinary.’ "

Sen. Ken Salazar (Colo.) rejected Republican assertions that he and other Democratic signers must accept a nominee as conservative as Janice Rogers Brown, now confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, because the agreement allowed her confirmation. "It didn’t set a standard" for Supreme Court confirmations, Salazar said. "We would leave it up to each person to define what extraordinary circumstance means."

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), however, said judicial activism concerns him more than ideology. "Are they going to be an activist?" Nelson asked rhetorically in discussing what might cause him to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee. "Their political philosophy may not bother me at all if they’re not going to be an activist."

That’s four of the seven Democratic compromisers who have signalled that they might abandon the deal. That leaves Robert Byrd, Daniel Inouye, and Mark Pryor as not yet on the record as potential waverers. Has anyone out there read or heard anything about their positions? Can at least three of the seven Republican signatories be counted on to support what seems to be the inevitable need to change the Senate rules? (Which ones? Chafee? Warner? McCain? Snowe? Collins? DeWine? Graham?)

The article also has extended quotations from Karl Rove, including a reference (unlikely merely a misstatement) to "Justice" Gonzalez. (To be clear, I take this as either a trial balloon or mindgames, rather than as a straightforward revelation of the direction of the Bush Administration’s thinking.)

For more, go

Update: Mark Pryor never says never in this article:

A test case of the agreement is whether a nominee as conservative as Janice Rogers Brown, confirmed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, could get past a filibuster threat for the Supreme Court. Senator Pryor says it’s not clear. "Every nomination is different.... I would hope that Janice Rogers Brown would not ever be considered for the US Supreme Court. But I’d like to reserve judgment on that. I may be wrong about her. She may get on the D.C. circuit and be a wonderful surprise. I may change my mind on her over time. Let her have some time to develop there and show what sort of judge she may be," he said.

There’s also more from Ben Nelson:

"I’m leaving open my judgment as to what ’extraordinary circumstances’ involves," says Sen. Ben Nelson (D) of Nebraska. He says there will be "no surprises," and that members of the Gang of 14 have ongoing discussions on this point.

Stay tuned.

Term limits?

Bruce Bartlett thinks that we ought to limit Supreme Court justices to one 18 year term (longer than the historical average), with appointments staggered so that one is made every two years. This would diminish the intensity of the appointment battles without compromising the independence of the justices, he argues. What think you, gentle readers?

O’Connor’s jurisprudence

Bruce Fein offers a brief explanation of what’s wrong with Sandra Day O’Connor’s jurisprudence.

The President Turns 59 Today

Happy Birthday, Mr. President! Your service to the nation has restored honor to our greatest institutions and ideals. In so doing, you have honored the American people. Like Lincoln, may you continue to look to the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution as the "apple of gold" in a "picture of silver" that holds the greatest earthly hopes for this nation and the world.

Academic ethics

Win Myers calls our attention to this essay on ethics in higher education. I can’t help but agree with this paragraph:

We would argue that, like elementary schools, universities have an obligation to ethically nurture undergraduate and graduate students. Although the earliest years of life are most important for the formation of ethical habits, universities can influence ethics as well. Like the Greek polis, universities become ethical when they become communities of virtue that foster and demonstrate ethical excellence. Lack of commitment to teaching, lack of concern for student outcomes, false advertising about job opportunities open to graduates, and diploma-mill teaching practices are examples of institutional practices that corrode rather than nourish ethics on campuses.

The authors indeed identify some campus practices that may corrupt all members of the community, students, faculty, and staff alike. But there’s more to it than that, and I’m not convinced that the authors have their fingers on what more there is and what, if anything, we can do either to promote virtue or to avoid its corruption.

Let me start with something obvious, whose full import isn’t noted by the authors. Students come to us not quite fully formed, but nevertheless pretty far down the moral path they’re going to take. They are in some measure products of their families, churches (and other religious institutions), communities, and schools. There are real limits to what we in the universities can do. We can do our darndest to undermine the commitments and character our students bring to campus. Or we can strengthen them at the margins, helping students critically to engage with and discern a wider and more diverse culture and society than the one that "produced" them. (I had promised to say no more about God on the Quad, but Riley does a good job describing efforts at various religious institutions to help students with that sort of discernment.)

Let me state this last point in both secular and religious ways. The secular way of putting is that, the authors to the contrary notwithstanding, philosophy is indeed necessary, not in order logically to derive moral principles, but rather to defend them against relativist and nihilist doubts. Aristotle himself works within a moral horizon, offering the most systematic possible account of gentlemanly virtue, but not deducing it from non-moral first principles. A latter-day Aristotelian can offer a defense of sound common sense against the inventions of theory.

From a religious point of view, the college and university experience can help students become more articulate and thoughtful defenders of their faith, open to the larger world, but not vulnerable and defenseless in the face of its challenges.

To wrap this longish post up, the two things most needful for ethics in higher education are religion and philosophy, the one not mentioned in the column, the other more or less dismissed. Campus practices can indeed avoid undermining and reinforce the common decency a good number of our students bring with them, but our students do need practice in moral discernment, whether offered in explicitly religious terms or in the language of natural law.

Welcome home, Mrs. Reilly

Robert Reilly, an old friend, writes a lovely piece on his wife taking the oath to become an American citizen. Please read it.   

The Nationals and "W"

Now, being an Indians fan (they’re playing pretty good ball, don’t you think?) I don’t pay much attention to other teams, especially in the other league. But the Washington Nationals are doing very well, I must say. This WaPo story on the cap problem is amusing. Some Nationals fans are buying caps with "DC" on them instead of "W". I wonder why?

Robert Alt at NRO

For those who are lax in the internet surfing habits because of the lazy, hazy days of summer, here’s Robert Alt’s explanation of why the Chief Justice should resign sooner rather than later.

The same section of the NRO website contains Senator Jon Cornyn’s omnibus response to much blathering. Both are worth reading.  

God on the Quad for the last time

I received my copy of the July/August issue of Touchstone in the mail today. The least of its treasures is my review of Naomi Schaefer Riley’s God on the Quad. Here’s the Table of Contents, which includes links to on-line versions of a few of the articles, including this one by J. Budziszewski on natural law and sexual morality. A taste:

Sex is like applying adhesive tape; promiscuity is like ripping the tape off again. If you rip it off, rip it off, rip it off, eventually the tape can’t stick anymore. This probably contributes to an even wider social problem that might be called the Peter Pan syndrome. Men in their forties with children in their twenties talk like boys in their teens. “I still don’t feel like a grown-up,” they say. They don’t even call themselves men—just “guys.”

Now, in a roundabout sort of way, I’ve just introduced you to the concept of natural law. Although the natural-law tradition is unfamiliar to most people today, it has been the main axis of Western ethical thought for 23 centuries, and in fact it is experiencing a renaissance.

Read the whole thing. And subscribe to the journal, which you can do

Haudenosaunee and the Constitution

Fred Bills, a former Ashbrook now interning at The Claremont Institute, has something to say about this New York Times op-ed (on the Fourth, no less) by Charles C. Mann, who brings up (again!) the Iroquois confederation and what (if any) influence its Great Law of Peace had on the U.S. Constitution. Note that Mann responds to Bills’ blog. There will probably be more.

Update: Fred Bills responds to Mann; a few clicks down.

Books and politics

The new issue of the Claremont Review of Books is out, and Charles Kesler’s, short essay to introduce the issue, "Bookless in America," is very much worth reading. John Kenneth Galbraith to the contrary, conservatism is not bookless in America. And yet, Kesler warns us, we have to be careful. It is one thing growing up on Hayek, Buckley, et al, and participating in the epic battles with liberalism, and another watching Bill O’Reilly. "Nonetheless, the danger of taking our precepts for granted—of forgetting the thinkers and arguments that made possible the epic confrontation with liberalism—grows greater as American conservatism moves farther away from its own founding age. We need to recur to first principles if we are not to lose sight of our purposes."

Another thought on Kelo

John Hinderaker, perhaps surprisingly, argues that it is far from clear that the Kelo decision was wrongly decided. You be the judge of his reasoning, but also see Richard Epstein.


Ken Masugi responds to Hinderaker, with some good links.

Eminent domain again

John Tierney writes about the use of eminent domain to destroy neighborhoods and build useless edifices in Pittsburgh, his hometown. For even more on this, go here.

Mark Steyn on recent Supreme Court decisions

As usual, Mark Steyn is irresistibly funny. Here’s a taste:

How does that banned-in-Kentucky Commandment go? "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, nor his ass." However, if thy neighbor is an ass and thou hast financing for a luxury hotel, covet away.

Read the whole thing.

Judicial matters

This article suggests that Anthony Kennedy is "evolving" in a leftward direction, which makes the O’Connor replacement all the more important.

This article indicates that the filibuster deal may make it difficult for liberals effectively to resist any Bush nominee, though they may try.

And here’s my nomination for the least well-informed statement of the weekend, by Sen. Charles Shumer:

"[T]he courts have been the protectors of individual rights since the Republic was founded."

Someone remind the good Senator about Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, and Buck v. Bell, to name just a few. Send him a copy of The Federalist Papers.

1776, Year One

George Will thinks that David McCullough’s new book 1776 is "a birthday card to his country on this Independence Day. He writes to "inspire gratitude for what a few good men, and one great one, did in the nation’s Year One." Will:

What is history? The study of it -- and the making of it, meaning politics -- changed for the worse when, in the 19th century, history became History. When, that is, history stopped being the record of fascinating contingencies -- political, javascript:doP();
New Paragraphintellectual, social, economic -- that produced the present. History became instead a realm of necessity. The idea that History is a proper noun, denoting an autonomous process unfolding a predetermined future in accordance with laws mankind cannot amend, is called historicism. That doctrine discounts human agency, reducing even large historical figures to playthings of vast impersonal forces. McCullough knows better.

Solid, unpretentious narrative history such as "1776" satisfies the healthy human thirst for a ripping good story. McCullough says that E.M. Forster, the novelist, efficiently defined a story: If you are told that the king died and then the queen died, that is a sequence of events. If you are told that the king died and then the queen died of grief, that is a story that elicits empathy.

Using narrative history to refute historicism, McCullough’s two themes in "1776" are that things could have turned out very differently and that individuals of character can change the destinies of nations.

As a friend of mine recently said, there are three documents--in this age of civic illiteracy--that all Americans know. The first, thank God, is the Declaration of Independence. This is Lincoln’s eulogy
of Henry Clay, July 6, 1852. Take note of this section:

He loved his country partly because it was his own country, but mostly because it was a free country; and he burned with a zeal for its advancement, prosperity and glory, because he saw in such, the advancement, prosperity and glory, of human liberty, human right and human nature. He desired the prosperity of his countrymen partly because they were his countrymen, but chiefly to show to the world that freemen could be prosperous.

Take a deep breath

In the pages of the Sunday Times, I found two sensible efforts to remind us all of what the judiciary is supposed to be. Here’s Stephen L. Carter, of whose work on religion and politics I’m fond:

Confirmation hearings for nominees to the high court only make matters worse, for the would-be justices are forced to sit before the cameras, under oath, as senators ask them questions they cannot ethically answer, on how they would vote on cases that might come before them. This process began not in the early Republic but in the battle over Jim Crow. In the 1950’s, the Southern Democrats who controlled the Senate Judiciary Committee decided to require every nominee to appear in person in order to grill them about Brown v. Board of Education. Before Brown, it was almost unheard-of for a nominee to testify. When the Dixiecrats changed the rules, the liberal position was that inquiries about such matters as judicial philosophy posed a threat to the independence of the judiciary.

The left of that era was correct. The spectacle we have made of confirmation hearings reinforces the public notion that the justices exist to decide cases the way political movements want them to. Liberals think the right started it, and conservatives think the left started it, but the important question is not who started it but who is going to stop it.

And here’s
Ann Althouse, one of Glenn Reynolds’ favorite bloggers, reviewing a book arguing for the election of Supreme Court justices:

If we really thought constitutional formalities needed to change to reflect real practice -- Davis’s bedrock assumption -- we would have to argue for the abolition of judicial review altogether.

I’m tempted to agree: those on the Left and the Right who regard these principally as political appointments ought to argue for the abolition of judicial review altogether. Mere result-oriented jurisprudence, whoever practices it or urges it, aims at the overthrow of our constitutional system, for it rests ultimately on the insistence that there is no limit to politics, either in the constitution or in our natural rights.

Mark Helprin

"I am compelled to elaborate," says the writer Mark Helprin, in this profile in the Harvard Magazine. He also says this: "For every word I speak, I see a picture." The whole long piece on him is worth reading since Helprin, surely, is one of our great writers, and, the fact that the high and mighty don’t much like his politics indicates he is worth reading. His hero is Winston Churchill. I think his best book is A Soldier of the Great War. Also see this essay by Helprin,
"Let Us Count the Ways to Win the War on Terrorism."

Live 8

Gideon Strauss, a smart and thoughtful South African expatriate living in Canada, has this to say about yesterday’s musical extravaganzas (scroll to the July 2nd entries, as the permalink function doesn’t seem to be working). Here’s a taste:

I am all for pop culture celebrities using the cultural leverage they enjoy to bring attention to this kind of issue, even when the actions they recommend are simplistic, and even though an event like this probably feeds the therapeutic politics of the modern North Atlantic, in which people strive harder after feeling compassionate than after actually improving the circumstances of those people toward whom they ostensibly are extending their sympathies.

He also offers a series of very sensible provisos before aid can be effective. Here’s the first:

African poverty cannot be alleviated without African governments that abide by the rule of law and that seek to establish a peaceable order with a significant degree of public justice within their territories. No external power, neither political nor economic, is responsible for this task. African governments must emerge that take up this responsibility themselves, conscious of the historical difficulties they face, but no longer hiding behind the legacy of colonialism to shirk their own duties.

Read the whole thing.

Please Nominate an "Extremist"

At the time of the O’Connor nomination in 1981, George Will wrote:

Recent Republican presidents have been notably incompetent at selecting Justices faithful to the presidents’ professed judicial values. Justices Warren, Brennan, Blackmun and Stevens have been among the, well, surprises. . . That [O’Connor] supported Reagan against Gerald Ford in 1976 may prove to Reagan her civic virtue, but it reveals little about how she will handle the "equal protection" clause. Having shown little inclination toward jurisprudential theory, she is unlikely to supply what this Court most needs.

There were other voices at the time (including Terry Eastland) who doubted that O’Connor would turn out to be a good selection, even though she was vetted at the Justice Department by none other than Kenneth Starr. Eastland was concerned that “O’Connor’s views on the Constitution and her understanding of judicial review are largely unknown.”

This is why it is essential that President Bush nominate someone that the Left regards as an "extremist," as only an "extremist" can be relied upon to defend the Constitution rather than regard it as a plaything for social engineering.

West Coast Notes

I’m transplanted for the summer out on the central coast of California (cooler and less humid than Washington), where I hope I’ll pick up the laggard pace of my blogging. I’m in San Luis Obispo County, one of the few coastal red counties in California, though my little beach town (Cambria) is, regrettably, deep blue. A new bistro has just opened, advertising its cuisine as "progressive American," which the French would find an oxymoron, I think.

I think I can answer the question of how high has prices need to be to get people to reduce their driving. Answer: higher than they are now, at least judging by the holiday traffic here and elsewhere I’ve driven lately. I got into a traffic jam in Paso Robles yesterday--only the second tie up I’ve seen of this dimension in 20 years. (I was also on I-15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas a few days ago, where the Vegas-bound traffic was bumper-to-bumper . . . for 100 miles.) And keep in mind that California gas prices are about 25 cents a gallon higher than the national average, thanks to our regulators.

Even at these prices, gasoline is still cheaper, adjusted for inflation, than it was in 1970, and is still cheaper than bottled water, which seems to have become a necessity for everyone to have these days.

Dems Used Religion Too

Next time you hear a liberal moan about the way the GOP uses religion to motivate voters, refer them to an old memoir of the 1948 election by Jack Redding, entitled Inside the Democratic Party. In a passage on p. 17-18 describing the excruciating election night that year, he observes that Massachusetts was solidly within the Truman column, Redding explains:

[Democratic Chairman Howard McGrath:] “We’ll sweep Massachusetts. I knew it. We were bound to win with that vote.” He was referring to the referendum on the Massachusetts ballot as to whether state health authorities should be allowed to give out birth-control information. The Catholic Church in Massachusetts had waged a holy war to have its members at the polls to vote against the question. The vast outpouring of Catholic voters, largely Democratic, meant we had every right to expect the Democrats, out to vote on the birth-control referendum, to stay and vote in the presidential and gubernatorial elections. Our hopes had proved right. Massachusetts was ours.

Hat tip: As the Skeptic comments, "Imagine. Utilizing a referendum on a sensitive social issue to mobilize religious voters. Who are Democrats. In Massachusetts."

Africa as Bleak House

Niall Ferguson is not optimistic--mass musical concerts to the contrary--about Africa. He weaves together a character from Dickens, Bob Geldof, and David Livingstone, to make his point about missionaries, singers and explorers, and Africa. The problem will not be solved by more aid from the G8 countries. Note the good paragraphs on China (and India).

Saudis get a big one

Younis Mohammed Ibrahim al-Hayari, al Qaeda’s leader in Saudi Arabia, has been killed. Also note this interesting report from Syria:
"Syria says security forces have killed a Muslim extremist and arrested dozens of others trying to illegally cross into neighboring Lebanon."

Praising France: Alliance Base and counterterrorism

Dana Priest praises the French, and the heretofore undisclosed top secret center in Paris, code-named Alliance Base, set up by trhe CIA and French intelligence services in 2002. This organization is unique because it is multinational and "actually plans operations" instead of just sharing information. Other countries also participate.

Funded largely by the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, Alliance Base analyzes the transnational movement of terrorist suspects and develops operations to catch or spy on them.

Alliance Base demonstrates how most counterterrorism operations actually take place: through secretive alliances between the CIA and other countries’ intelligence services. This is not the work of large army formations, or even small special forces teams, but of handfuls of U.S. intelligence case officers working with handfuls of foreign operatives, often in tentative arrangements.

Such joint intelligence work has been responsible for identifying, tracking and capturing or killing the vast majority of committed jihadists who have been targeted outside Iraq and Afghanistan since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to terrorism experts.

The former acting CIA director, John E. McLaughlin, described the relationship between the CIA and its French counterparts as "one of the best in the world. What they are willing to contribute is extraordinarily valuable." There is some detail on the arrest of Christian Ganczarski and Ahmed Mehdi, as well as Ahmed Ressam and Zacarias Moussaoui. There are other nuggets of interesting information in the article, and all of it is worth reading. Note the last line in the article, a quote from French Interior Minister Sarkozy.

Related to the above story is this: Italy
"seethes" with anger over the CIA’s apparent abduction of an Islamic militant cleric.

How Kristol mand Novak knew about O’Connor

Marcia Davis writes about how Bill Kristol and Bob Novak were the only observers not surprised by Justice O’Connor’s resignation. Some of the details--Kristol is interviewed from Portugal--are interesting. Novak is also interviewed.

Black Republicans

This New York Times story focuses, briefly, on the increasing number of black Republicans either running--or thinking about running--for the Senate or for governor of their states. Lynn Swann, Ken Blackwell, Keith Butler, and Michael Steele, are among those mentioned. Donna Brazile says that "this is a very challenging moment for Democrats." Ken Blackwell, the Secreteray of State of Ohio, explains how well the vote in Ohio went in 2004. Project 21, a black conservative organization, is already weighing in the Supreme Court opening. Peter Kirsanow, a member of Project 21 said this: "I’m confident that the President will nominate someone with integrity and wisdom who understands that the proper role of a Supreme Court justice is to interpret the text of the Constitution, rather than, as Justice Thomas put it, promote ’the faddish slogans of the cognoscenti.’"

Education vouchers again

Don’t worry, I’ll start obsessing about the Supreme Court nomination soon enough, but for the moment I have vouchers on my mind.

Here’s a press release from the Milton & Rose Friedman Foundation celebrating the expansion of Ohio’s voucher program, upheld by the Supreme Court in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris. (In case you’re wondering--O.K., I couldn’t resist--Sandra Day O’Connor voted with the majority and wrote a separate concurrence insisting upon the genuineness of the choice Cleveland parents had.)

Katie Newmark calls our attention to this line of argument, which suggests that well-intentioned state constitutional provisions regarding support for public schools--which I’ve already discussed here and here--may well serve the purposes of school choice opponents. As Andrew Coulson puts it,

Floridians, and citizens of every other state with such explicit constitutional mandates, have backed themselves into a corner. Even if compelling new evidence convinces the majority of voters that there is a better way to educate children, the state could be stuck with the status quo. It would likely take a supermajority and a constitutional amendment to put alternatives to traditional government schooling on a sound judicial footing.

While voucher systems may constitutionally supplement public school systems, it would likely take constitutional amendments to legitimate voucher programs that "replaced traditional public schools or competed with them on a level playing field." And even the "supplemental" programs, like Florida’s (and
Ohio’s?) may be vulnerable to state constitutional challenge.

The Ten Commandments and our political adolescence

Joe Knippenberg’s thoughtful review of the Court’s incoherence in the two Ten Commandments cases leads him to conclude that the Supremes are not allowing us to govern ourselves, they think they are protecting us from our selves, hence guranteeing our "perpetual political adolescense." Madison and the boys must be rolling in their graves.

O’Connor’s Retirement

Here’s Presdident’s Bush’s remarks on Sandra Day O’Connor’s resignation. I suppose when someone retires one should be generous but Bush seems too generous in my estimation in his praise of O’Connor. Certainly, she hasn’t been as bad Souter and she was on the right side in the Kelo case. In this inflationary age, I would give her a C- as a judge.

Bush calls for all sides to be civil in the run up to a vote to replace O’Connor. Good luck.

I notice in her announcement, O’Connor states that her resignation becomes effective upon the nomination and confirmation of her successor. Gee, I hope the Dems don’t have 41 votes to block her successor and force her to serve anothe term.

O’Connor retires

Am told it is being announced as I write. Will confirm.

UPDATE: This is the AP story, and the Washington Post.

This is the New York Times story.

The Real Risk of Shark Attack

You can tell it’s the summer, because in the absence of real news we’re getting bombarded in the media with stories about shark attacks. Ralph Frasca from Division of Labour directs our attention to a site that demonstrates what the actual chances are that the average person will be attacked by a shark.

Frasca notes that in Florida over the past 50 years exactly eight people have been killed by sharks; on the other hand, thirteen have been killed by alligators. Quiz question: Guess which animal is federally protected--the shark or the alligator?

Saving America’s soul

Joseph Loconte notes that yet another group from the religious Left has embarked on a crusade. His concluding paragraph:

Call it fundamentalism from the left. If religious progressives help the Democratic Party to "find religion," we’re going to see a lot more of it. Heaven help us.

Read the whole thing.