Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

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.