Friday, September 30, 2005

No on Gonzales: an inside scoop

It has been clear ever since W clinched his victory in December of 2000 that Alberto Gonzales was being groomed for a Supreme Court slot. The President has made it clear that he wants to appoint the first Hispanic nominee to the Supreme Court--and equally clear that he wants Gonzales to be that pick.

This blog has little access to "inside information"--the closest I come is a highly placed DC social conservative who worked with the Bush team when W was governor of Texas. And for the last few years he has been asking me to pray that Gonzales NOT get the Supreme Court pick--precisely because Gonzales could not be trusted on Roe.

What my source tells me on this is the same as we are hearing from just about everybody who knows Gonzales personally--that Gonzales is simply not a pro-life social conservative.

If this is wrong, then Gonzales must be a singularly unskilled DC politician. He has had close to five years in Washington to meet leading conservatives and win their trust. Instead, he has faced a firestorm of conservative opposition both inside and outside the beltway.

Having burned his bridges with conservatives, he has infuriated liberals as well with his memos on the war on terror. He has become, in short, the anti-Roberts: where Roberts won praise from left and right, Gonzales has large numbers of those on both left and right ready to burn him in effigy and throw him into the Potomac.

Perhaps Roberts is really a social conservative, somewhere in secret where only Rove and W know it. But this is a Supreme Court nomination, and the nation deserves better than a stealth nominee. That is a strategy that has produced O´Connor and Kennedy and Souter.

We cannot afford the risk on Gonzales.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Roberts Riddle

On Thursday 29 September 2005 John G Roberts was confirmed as the next Chief Justice of the United States.

At one level, this was a victory for the President and conservative Republicans. Roberts is a former Reagan Justice Department official and carries impeccable conservative credentials.

But at a deeper level, this is a defeat for the pro-life movement and for social conservatives. Named to replace a justice on record for reversing Roe v. Wade, Roberts declined to state on an opinion on the case--his strategy was to run as a stealth nominee, and it was as a stealth nominee that he was confirmed.

It should be clear that the math on this strategy makes it extremely difficult for any progress to be made in overturning Roe v. Wade. If--as with President Clinton--anti-Roe justices like Byron White are replaced with pro-Roe justices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg; and if--as with President Bush--anti-Roe justices like Rehnquist are replaced with question marks like Roberts, then inevitably the pro-Roe wing on the court must grow and the anti-Roe wing must wither.

However happy many conservative may be with Roberts, it must be clear that Roberts is a can´t lose pick for the pro-choice movement. If he votes to reverse Roe, the pro-choice movement has lost nothing. If he votes to affirm Roe, it is a disaster for the pro-life movement.

Social conservatives are going to have to make it clear that this strategy cannot continue. Republican presidents have been absolutely dependent for victory on (normally Democratic) pro-life voters who have voted GOP in the hopes for pro-life Supreme Court justices. The next nominee to the US Supreme Court needs to be on record as opposing Roe v. Wade--or pro-lifers will be justified in withholding their support

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

W and the Realignment of 2004--why the GOP can be confident about winning in 2008





2004: W and the September 11th coalition


1896: McKinley and the Realignment of 1896.

Fred Barnes is worried about the GOP's chances for the White House in 2008. So is Hugh Hewitt. They shouldn't be. 2004 was a in all likelihood a realignment election and one of the great decisive realignments of American history.

Realignments are not quirks of fate. They come almost as regularly as clockwork, occurring almost exactly every 36 years:

1788: Washington.
1824-28: Andrew Jackson and Jacksonian democracy.
1860: Lincoln and the Civil War coalition.
1896: McKinley and the system of'96.
1932: FDR and the New Deal coalition.
1968: Nixon and the Sunbelt coalition.
2004: W and the September 11th coalition.

In each of these realignments the victorious party took control of the nation, and retained it for 6-7 of the presidential elections in the cycle. There is every reason to think that W's victory in 2004 constitutes a similar watershed election. In the relative closeness of the election--and the amazing intensity and polarization of the public--it resembles McKinley's 1896 victory which redefined American national politics for a generation (see the maps for the close similarities).

The most serious challenge is rather whether W and the GOP can do anything constructive with their new position of leadership. Nixon squandered his leadership and failed in virtually every one of his objectives: Viet Nam was a defeat, his price controls and fiscal policy helped ruin the economy, and his disastrous Supreme Court appointments led to another generation of judicial activism.

The challenge for the GOP is whether it has the wisdom and the statesmanship to meet the challenges of the War on Terrorism, a new global economy, and the ongoing erosion of American social values. The debate over W's successor will play a key part in the process--as will the need for courage and determination in the next four years of the War on Terror.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Condi guns for 2008...

Okay, so it's only Patrick Ruffini's September 2005 straw poll. But once again Condi is the front-runner, leading Giuliani 33%-13 (with Jeb in 3rd at 11).

What little hard evidence we have backs this up. A real poll from
Iowa in August 2005 surveys 400 GOP voters likely to vote in the 2008 caucuses. Without Condi, it's Rudy and McCain tied at 22%, Newt at 14. Put Condi in and she sweeps up: Condi 30%, McCain 16, Rudy 15, Newt 7.

This isn't an accident: it's based on her very high name recognition and approval ratings:
Candidate: (name recognition) approval/disapproval.
Rudy: (91) 66/8
McCain: (94)44/33
Condi: (94.5)80/8

Very simply, Condi has the highest name recognition and highest approval rating of any leading contender for president.

And she cleans up in a very pro-life state: The Iowa GOP runs pro-life 61%, pro-choice 11%, doesn't matter 25%. And they run against embryonic stem cell research 54-32%.

Iowa's positive response to Condi seems typical of the rest of the country. The GOP internet base from Patrick Ruffini August straw poll with 17,000 responses shows Condi leading in every region of the country:

West: 39/15 Condi over Cheney
South: 36/13 Condi over Cheney
Midwest: 38/15 Condi over Cheney
Northeast: 36/14 Condi over Cheney

And Condi sweeps referrals from every leading blog:

Instapundit: 49/11 Condi over Giuliani
Free Republic: 33/22 Condi over Tancredo
HHewitt: 37/18 Condi over Cheney
MMalkin: 40/18 Condi over Cheney
Polipundit: 42/14 Condi over Cheney
Red State: 31/16 Condi over Jeb


...are these the internet tremors of a coming political earthquake?

The Warren Commission after 40+ years: still right

27 September 1964 saw the release of the Warren Commission Report on the JFK assassination. Hailed for a short period of time, the report became in the 1960s a victim of the paranoia of the counter-cultural crack-up.

The turning point came, paradoxically, through Oliver Stone's 1991 crack-pot movie JFK. Stone attempted to rehabilitate a discredited New Orleans prosecutor who tried to prove a conspiracy to assassinate the president--which prosecutor in turn had been brutally exposed by the national news media. The news media turned on the movie, counter-attacked, demolished Stone's case, and gave key publicity to the best book ever written on the JFK assassination: Gerald Posner's irrefutable Case Closed.

The case against Oswald was basically open-and-shut: all the surviving bullet and bullet fragments came exclusively from Oswald's rifle. The rifle had Oswald's fingerprints on it. Oswald fled the scene of the crime immediately after the shooting; when stopped by a police officer, Oswald shot him in cold blood. Oswald then fled to a movie theater; and when approached by another police officer, he tried to shoot him as well--and failed only because his revolver jammed.

For those determined to believe in conspiracy theories, the theory with the most evidence is this one: Jackie did it. It's not well known, but Jackie had a distant relative, George De Mohrenschildt, who was one of Oswald's few friends in Dallas. The theory is simple. Jackie: "I want that cheating husband of mine dealt with!" George: "I know just the man who can help." No, of course, I'm not serious--but there's more hard evidence for that theory than for any other theory out there.

Of course, I'm leaving out the solution offered by one of the finest series in the history of television...for the documentation on the cigaret-smoking man as the true assassin, see The X-Files (4x8).

[Partial secret full disclosure: GrenfellHunt is linked to a commission staffer...so I might be part of the conspiracy...]

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Crusade for Intelligent Design: why Christians can't win...




...at least not in the public schools.

Today's NY Times carries the story of a fight over a Pennsylvania school board: they seek exposure to Intelligent Design (ID) in the public schools.

President Bush has endorsed it. Senator McCain seems to favor it. Blogger support comes from LaShawn Barber, Hugh Hewitt, and even Amitai Etzioni (!).

This blogger might also be expected to support it: I teach philosophy and theology at a traditional Catholic college. And back in my evangelical days I had the opportunity to attend conferences where I met personally scientific creationists Duane Gish and Steve Austin; and ID theorists Stephen Meyer (DPhil, Cambridge) and Paul Nelson (PhD, University of Chicago)[not that I would expect them to remember me!].

Nonetheless, this is a battle that Christian conservatives can't win and shouldn't fight. "Onward Christian Soldiers" is a stirring old tune--but you don't ask Christians to go over the top of the trenches and head directly into enemy machine-gun fire. But for the last century, Christian conservatives have been doing exactly that: the Scopes trial, William Jennings Bryan, scientific creationism in the 1980s--and not a single inch of ground gained. Millions of dollars invested, much passion and prayer and tears, endless toil and turmoil--and absolutely nothing to show for it.

The intelligent design movement can win in one way and in one way only: by men and women who earn doctorates in the appropriate scientific and philosophical disciplines, who work to convince their peers that the theory is true. There is no chance that it will ever win by asking local parents to storm the local school boards. That is like sending primitive tribal warriors into battle against soldiers armed with machine-gunes: there is no chance whatever of success. Even where local school boards can be taken, they will always be shut down by the courts or by authorities elsewhere in the system.

If Christian conservatives want to increase exposure to intelligent design, that can only be done by increasing enrollment in private and parochial schools which teach ID. Which is to say: voucher programs. If the energy which Christian conservatives are investing in promoting ID in the public schools were instead invested in promoting voucher programs, there would be an excellent chance of success. There is no chance of imposing ID on the public schools of America. By contrast, there is an excellent chance that the political system can be persuaded to guarantee low and middle-income parents their freedom to choose.

Some of my liberal friends are horrified by Christian parents attempting to impose their values on the public schools. But this is exactly what secularized public schools are already doing to Christians parents. The secularized public school system discriminates systematically against the values and rights of religious minorities. Parents of a variety of faiths are forced to pay high sums of property taxes and other taxes to support schools systems that are diametrically opposed to the values that these parents wish to teach their children. The controversies over ID are directly caused by the fact that the public schools systematically disadvantage the rights and privileges of religious minorities.

The solution to the ID debate is not to "teach the conflict" in the public schools. The solution is for liberals to realize that the public school system marginalizes minority religious groups, and that these parents have the right to a nationwide voucher program so that they can pursue their values without prejudice to the rest of society. The solution is for conservatives to realize that ID in the public schools is a sure-fire loser, and to make voucher programs central to reform of the nation's schools.

If liberals wish to help build a tolerant society, they need to recognize the rights of every group in society and to guarantee to parents the freedom to choose. And conservatives need to recognize that ID has no future in the public schools, and to rally support for voucher programs instead.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A soldier speaks to protesters...



CNN covers the anti-war protesters.

And a soldier answers from Iraq:
The battlefield this weekend will be on the homefront. The only thing that truly concerns me is that the seditionist groups will succeed in causing the American people to lose their will and the enemy will win politically the victory we have denied them militarily.

Let there be no mistake: we are winning here. Morale is outstanding and we are successfully taking the fight to the enemy. You will see a successful referendum in less than 3 weeks and a successfull election in less than 3 months. I see the positive resuts of our actions everyday. The MSM ignores or denigrates almost every piece of positive news, exaggerates every negative and makes the enemy and his actions out to be more than they are.

They absolutely cannot defeat us militarily and have no strategic vision except the destruction of all who oppose them. A strategy based on such a negative is doomed to fail, unless we cut and run. That is the enemy's only chance to win. The biggest threat we face is a determined enemy who will not quit because, like the Vietnamese they see the possibility of victory because of a perceived willingness to quit at home.

You all are the ones who can help us out here by countering the enemy within. I've said it several times before: this war will be won or lost on the homefront, and the fact that there are so many of our so-called fellow citizens determined to defeat us scares me. You are the ones who can keep history from being repeated and you can help us by not allowing the anti-American crowd to help the enemy snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Some very poignant comments about how the same kind of seditionists helped the Communists succeed in Vietnam clearly proves the significance of what you are doing: " North Vietnamese Col. Bui Tin, who served under Gen. (Nguyen) Giap on the general staff of the North Vietnamese army, received South Vietnam's unconditional surrender on April 30, 1975.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal after his retirement, Col. Tin explicitly credited leaders of the U.S. anti-war movement, saying they were "essential to our strategy."

"Every day our leadership would listen to world news over the radio at 9AM to follow the growth of the antiwar movement," Col. Tin told the Journal.

Visits to Hanoi by … anti-war allies Jane Fonda and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and others, he said, "gave us confidence that we should hold on in the face of battlefield reverses."

"We were elated when Jane Fonda, wearing a red Vietnamese dress, said at a press conference that she was ashamed of American actions in the war," the North Vietnamese military man explained.

"Through dissent and protest [America] lost the ability to mobilize a will to win," Col. Tin concluded. "

Thanks for taking the time to help us out. You are the ones who clearly support the troops... because you support our mission. You may not appreciate the role you will play in helping to win this fight. But I do.

Thanks again.

Benedict XVI rules out gay priests






Or so it seems. Time is clearly worried about it. The NY Times is worried about homophobia. And Andrew Sullivan calls on gay priests to come out and fight back.

There are no reliable statistics on what percentage of either American men or Catholic priests think of themselves as gay. The CDC reports some 4-6% of American men have had at one point in their lifetime some form of physical relations with another man.

This contrasts sharply--and tragically--with the pattern of sex abuse among Catholic priests. I blogged earlier this year on the scandal of Catholic priests. Here is the profile of their victims:

Age.................Number......% male....% of all victims
Ages 1-7........ 487 victims.....42% male....5% of all victims
Ages 8-10......1390 victims.....71% male...14% of all victims
Ages 11-17....8410 victims....85% male....82% of all victims
Totals.........10,287 victims....81% male...100% of all victims
........................................................totals exceed 100%
........................................................due to rounding

This is very scary. The victims are overwhelmingly teenage boys. If Catholic priests share the same tendencies as American men as a whole, then the homosexual 4-6% of priests produced 80% of the scandal. If we think that homosexual priests are double the percentage of the American population, little changes: then the homosexual 8-12% produced 80% of the scandal.

So in any reasonable estimate, the bottom line is still the same: Catholic priests with homosexual tendencies are a dramatically higher risk to be untrue to their vows.

It is sometimes asked: why not ordain homosexual priests if they vow to remain celibate? The statistics give part of the answer: that has been Catholic policy for the last generation, and the evidence is that homosexual priests are dramatically more likely to betray their vows. If the Church had ordained no homosexual priests, that would have eliminated about 80% of the scandal.

Should the Catholic Church then absolutely bar all homosexual men from the priesthood? In the ancient world, at least some of the Church's most brilliant bishops are believed to have had some same-sex experiences prior to conversion. The classic example would be Augustine of Hippo, a saint and doctor of the Catholic Church: his reference in his Confessions to "defiling the spring of friendship with the filth of lust" (3.1.1) is usually understood to indicate same-gender unions. It would be a tragedy to lose men of the stature of an Augustine.

Will the new rules against gay men in the priesthood lead to a witch-hunt? In America, highly unlikely. There is a vastly greater risk that the rules will be politely received and quietly ignored. There may come a generation of American bishops who earn a reputation for swift, full, and loyal obedience to Rome; but that generation has yet to make its appearance north of the Rio Grande.

Will the new rules hurt recruitment for the priesthood? Quite the contrary. The last generation of recruitment for the priesthood has been badly hurt by the spread of homosexuality in the priesthood. Devout Catholic men do not stay long in seminaries where they have to fend off passes from classmates. The failure of the last generation of Catholic bishops to deal vigorously with this problem is part of the reason for the priest shortage in some dioceses.

I have sympathy for those faithful priests who are attracted to other men and are concerned with the forthcoming new rules. There is no reason for good faithful priests to feel persecuted within the Church.

But this is on balance the wise move for the Catholic Church at this moment in her history. The purification of the priesthood from men who are unlikely to be to true to their vows is a healthy step forward. Benedict XVI's new rules will contribute to more priests, stronger vocations, and a stronger Catholic Church.

A welcome to chess players...

It's always fascinating who drops by a site. Had a visitor today who was came via an international chess grandmaster.

As someone who grew up playing chess, hypnotized by the Fischer-Spassky championship, a cheerful Sunday welcome to all visiting chess players.

Quizzing...

You might be amused by the OK Cupid Politics test. I came out as: social moderate (43% permissive) and economic liberal (36% permissive). You exhibit a very well-developed sense of Right and Wrong and believe in economic fairness.--Nice to hear...

Saturday, September 24, 2005

W: "Find me another Roberts"




Newsweek claims this is W's charge to his troops.

If that's really the plan, there's only one choice: Judge Michael McConnell, the 50-year old former University of Chicago law professor. It has often been remarked that the Roberts nomination set the bar very high for the next Supreme Court nomination. And the only candidate out there who is really up to that standard is McConnell.

1. Intellectually, McConnell towers over the other possible nominees. I don't want to be hard on the other distinguished names out there, but place their CVs next to McConnell, and none of them holds a candle to him: grad of UChicago law school, clerk to US Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, Reagan Justice Department assistant to the solicitor general 1983-85, then later given an endowed chair at UChicago law school (!). [For non-academics, this is the triple-crown: a) tenure; b) an endowed chair; c) UChicago, which is easily the legal equal of Harvard/Yale.]
2. He will dazzle at the hearings: a skilled advocate before the US Supreme Court winning 9 of his 11 cases; if you want an example of him showing a Roberts-esque ability to run rings around the Senate Judiciary Committe, see his testimony here on Roe v. Wade.
3. He is a classic University of Chicago economic conservative with several editorials for the Wall Street Journal, and is a card-carrying member of the First Things crowd.
4. He is on record critiqueing Roe v. Wade, and signed a petition calling for a pro-life constitutional amendment.
5. And yet: he is affable, open-minded, and has even better bi-partisan support going into the hearings than Roberts had: witness the support of over 300 law professors, mostly Democrats. It's not every card-carrying conservative who can charm hard-line legal liberals like Cass Sunstein and Lawrence Tribe into supporting him. As someone who opposed the impeachment of Bill Clinton and sharply criticized Bush v. Gore, his critics will have no success painting him as an ideologue.

McConnell then gives President Bush exactly the virtues he got in the Roberts nomination: his conservative credentials are better than Roberts (who never opposed Roe v. Wade in print); his support among liberals and Democrats is stronger; his intellectual/judicial credentials are at Roberts-level or better.

He is, of course, a white male. But if the choice is for excellence over political correctness, McConnell is the path to pick.

Orrin Hatch on McConnell

Senator Orrin Hatch on McConnell:


PRESENTATION OF MICHAEL W. MCCONNELL, NOMINEE TO BE CIRCUIT
JUDGE FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT BY HON. ORRIN HATCH, A U.S. SENATOR
FROM THE STATE OF UTAH

Senator Hatch. Mr. Chairman, I am proud to be here today to introduce and
to reiterate my strongest support for Professor McConnell, who
enjoys support from lots of powerful people, Republican and
Democrat, conservative and liberal, and men and women--notably,
including well-known law professors Laurence Tribe, Cass
Sunstein, Akhil Amar, and Walter Dellinger, who are certainly
no strangers to this committee or its members.

Professor McConnell, in my opinion, cannot be pegged as an
ideologue in any sense of the word. He is an honest man. He
calls it as he sees it, and he is beholden to no one and to no
group. He has taken scholarly positions and has brilliantly
argued on issues that at times have been opposed by
conservatives and at times opposed by liberals. As the
committee knows well, Professor McConnell has publicly opposed
impeachment of President Clinton. He has testified against a
school prayer amendment, as my colleague has said. He has
represented, without charge, some left-of-center groups such as
People for the American Way and Americans United for the
Separation of Church and State, and he has been described by
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as ``the most prominent
scholarly critic'' of Scalia's approach to the Free Exercise
Clause. He is also a brave man. He has criticized my
constitutional amendment on the flag.

He has taken these positions and has earned the broadest
respect of his peers, liberal and conservative, not to make
friends, not to agree with any agenda, but to be honest
intellectually. Few people will disagree that he is truly one
of the most humble legal geniuses of our time.

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, it is my high
honor and privilege to introduce to you Professor Michael
McConnell, a Utahn and a scholar of the highest talent, the
most profound integrity, and, of course, he has a supremely
judicial temperament.

Now, I won't go through his career because my colleagues
have made that quite clear. But he was a tenured professor at
the University of Chicago, decided to teach at the University
of Utah. He served as a law clerk to two of the leading liberal
jurists of the 20th century, Supreme Court Justice William J.
Brennan, Jr., and D.C. Court of Appeals Judge J. Skelly Wright.
I would like to acknowledge the presence here today of Judge
Wright's widow, Helen, and her husband, John Pickering. It is
an honor to have both of you here.

After completing these clerkships, Professor McConnell
became assistant general counsel of OMB [under President Reagan] and then served as
assistant to the Solicitor General of the United States [also under President Reagan]. He had
the prestigious chair at the University of Chicago.
I might add
that he is an able and very experienced appellate lawyer. He
has argued 11 cases before the United States Supreme Court and
won nine of them. One of his presentations to the Supreme Court
was named by the Los Angeles Daily Journal the ``best oral
argument'' of the year. His clients include a wide range of
entities, from Fortune 500 companies such as NBC and Ameritech,
to organizations such as the United States Catholic Conference,
to municipal authorities including the New York Metropolitan
Transit Authority, as well as many individuals.

Now, this combination of intelligence, skill, and
experience was very likely the reason that the American Bar
Association gave him unanimously the highest rating possible,
``well qualified.''

I could go on about Professor McConnell's outstanding
record of achievement and his unsurpassed reputation, but so
can many friends of this committee like Professors Sunstein,
Tribe, Dellinger, or Kmiec.

Mr. Chairman, about the only opposition to Professor
McConnell's nomination has come from the inside-the-Beltway
advocacy groups. I must say, what I find striking is the stark
difference between the evaluation provided to this committee by
his academic peers who know him best and that done by these
Washington special interest groups.

In my view, Professor McConnell's excellence in
scholarship, honesty in his intellect, his defense of liberty,
contribution to legal thought and precise understanding of the
role of a judge show why he is one of the best nominees this
committee has evaluated in a long, long time.

In reviewing Professor McConnell's full record, one area of
scholarship stood out for me very much: his contributions in
protecting our freedom of religion. This is one that is
important to me, and I know from working on the Religious
Freedom Restoration Act and the Religious Liberty Protection
Act, it is important to all members of the committee, and we
all cherish these issues dearly. As you know, Professor
McConnell is widely regarded as modern America's most
persuasive advocate for the idea that our Government should
ensure every citizen's right to worship--or not worship--in his
or her preferred manner. Through his scholarship and advocacy
in court, he has stood up for the rights of all religious
people, including members of some politically out-of-favor
faiths to worship free of Government restriction or intrusion.

Many Americans believe that the freedom to exercise their
own religion is the most profound and important idea on which
this country and our Government were founded. Many Americans
feel so secure in this freedom that they have not personally
felt the forces that were eroding it or the tremendous success
Professor McConnell's efforts have achieved in repairing that
damage.

Before Professor McConnell began his prodigious scholarship
in the area of the First Amendment's religion clauses, the idea
was taking root that the Government must disfavor religion in
its policies. That is, judges and scholars believed that all
groups must be treated equally except religions, which must be
excluded entirely from any Government program or policy.
Professor McConnell's scholarship served as a dramatic
wake-up call. He researched the Founders' writings and
presented with illuminating clarity that the point of free
exercise is for Government to remain neutral as between
religions and neutral as between religions and non-religions,
and it must accommodate religious activity where feasible. He
demonstrated there was no basis in the founding for the view
that our Government must be anti-religion. The persuasiveness
of his writing reawakened American legal scholars and judges to
the Founders' view that the First Amendment's purpose is to
protect religion from Government, not the other way around. His
work has helped reinvigorate the healthy and dynamic pluralism
of religion that has allowed all faiths to flourish in this
most religiously tolerant Nation in human history.

McConnell's views defy political pigeonholing. On questions
of free exercise of religion, he has generally sided with the
so-called liberal wing of the Court, arguing for vigorous
protection for the rights of religious minorities. In fact, as
I said earlier, in one opinion Supreme Court Justice Antonin
Scalia described McConnell as ``the most prominent scholarly
critic'' of his own more limited view of the free exercise
rights.

On questions of establishment of religion, McConnell's view
that religious perspectives should be given equal but no
favored treatment in the public sphere has led him to testify
against a school prayer amendment, while supporting the rights
of religious citizens and groups to receive access to public
resources on an equal basis.

Mr. Chairman, just as the pluralism of religious diversity
has profoundly enriches the spiritual life of our country, so
has the strong tradition of academic freedom and exchange of
ideas allowed an astonishing creative explosion of ideas and
achievement in America that has benefited the people of the
United States and around the world. Our First Amendment and our
intellectual property laws strive to protect, stimulate, and
widely disseminate such thought and exchange.

Few people in modern America have contributed more to their
area of expertise, and thus proven the value of academic
freedom, than Professor McConnell. He has written over 50
articles in professional journals and books.
He has delivered
hundreds of lectures and penned many op-ed pieces. He has
contributed an immeasurable amount to the discourse of legal
ideas. As Professor Laurence Tribe has written to this
committee, ``McConnell is among the Nation's most distinguished
constitutional scholars and a fine teacher.'' Professor Tribe
further explained that he and McConnell ``share a commitment to
principled legal interpretation and to a broadly civil
libertarian constitutional framework.''
Mr. Chairman, I ask
that Professor Tribe's letter be included in the record at this
point.

Chairman Leahy. We will include that in the record. Also,
there have been a number of other----
Senator Hatch. I would ask that all of the----
Chairman Leahy. Professor Sunstein's and others, I want to
get them all in here. We will put them all in the record,
including, to be very fair, those that went out of their way to
attack me and other members of the committee, on your behalf,
though, so it is all for the good. We will put them all in.
Senator Hatch. Was that on my behalf or Professor
McConnell's behalf?
Chairman Leahy. It was done on behalf of Professor
McConnell, but we will put them all in the record so we can be
totally fair about this.
Senator Hatch. All right.
The significance of Professor McConnell's contributions to
the legal profession in part explains why 304 professors--
ranging from conservative to liberal--have signed a single
letter urging this committee to confirm Professor McConnell's
nomination. Now, when was the last time that 304 professors,
law professors at that, agreed on anything? This is the first.
I ask consent, as you have already given, that these letters
also be included in the record.

Now, Professor McConnell's peers consider him one of the
Nation's foremost constitutional scholars and appellate
advocates and as a person with a reputation for fair-minded
openness--or I should put that another way, open-minded
fairness. In addition to the professors I mentioned earlier,
Professors Charles Fried, Akhil Amar, Larry Lessig, Sanford
Levinson, Douglas Laycock, and Dean John Sexton have been among
those who have praised McConnell's integrity, ability, and
fair-minded approach to legal issues. Mr. Chairman, I ask
consent that those letters also be included.
Chairman Leahy. Of course.
Senator Hatch. Over the years, many on both sides of the
aisle have discussed the impact of this committee's evaluation
process on those who have added the most to the public
discourse of legal ideas.
I think we should praise and encourage the prolific
exchange of honest and principled scholarly writing, assuming
such scholars know the proper role of a judge, to interpret the
law as written and to follow precedent--and I should say to
leave the innovative scholarship at home once confirmed to the
bench.

Stats on Judges

A very interesting study of conservatism in US appeals cases:
From 2002 and Judicature.
All of the names except Easterbrook are listed as possible picks to O'Connor's Supreme Court slot.

Judge Composite Ideology (percent conservative rulings)

Janice Rodgers Brown (SCOCA)--59.9
Frank Easterbrook-------------68.8
Emilio Garza------------------70.4
Edith Jones-------------------71.3
J. Michael Luttig-------------68.2
J. Harvie Wilkinson-----------79.5
U.S. Court of Appeals Average--64.4

Via Volokh. It's interesting to see that JRBrown--the woman who sends some conservatives into orbit--is actually the most liberal of the judges listed, and more liberal than the US Court of Appeals average.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Will to Win

A classic post from Indepundit:

The Most Critical BattlefieldTHE FOLLOWING COMMENT was left by a Marine serving in Iraq (IP address confirmed) in the "Operation FREE BALBOA" post:

Thanks for doing this. The battlefield this weekend will be on the homefront. The only thing that truly concerns me is that the seditionist groups will succeed in causing the American people to lose their will and the enemy will win politically the victory we have denied them militarily.
Let there be no mistake: we are winning here. Morale is outstanding and we are successfully taking the fight to the enemy. You will see a successful referendum in less than 3 weeks and a successfull election in less than 3 months. I see the positive resuts of our actions everyday. The MSM ignores or denigrates almost every piece of positive news, exaggerates every negative and makes the enemy and his actions out to be more than they are.

They absolutely cannot defeat us militarily and have no strategic vision except the destruction of all who oppose them. A strategy based on such a negative is doomed to fail, unless we cut and run. That is the enemy's only chance to win. The biggest threat we face is a determined enemy who will not quit because, like the Vietnamese they see the possibility of victory because of a perceived willingness to quit at home.

You all are the ones who can help us out here by countering the enemy within. I've said it several times before: this war will be won or lost on the homefront, and the fact that there are so many of our so-called fellow citizens determined to defeat us scares me. You are the ones who can keep history from being repeated and you can help us by not allowing the anti-American crowd to help the enemy snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Some very poignant comments about how the same kind of seditionists helped the Communists succeed in Vietnam clearly proves the significance of what you are doing: " North Vietnamese Col. Bui Tin, who served under Gen. (Nguyen) Giap on the general staff of the North Vietnamese army, received South Vietnam's unconditional surrender on April 30, 1975.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal after his retirement, Col. Tin explicitly credited leaders of the U.S. anti-war movement, saying they were "essential to our strategy."

"Every day our leadership would listen to world news over the radio at 9AM to follow the growth of the antiwar movement," Col. Tin told the Journal.

Visits to Hanoi by … anti-war allies Jane Fonda and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and others, he said, "gave us confidence that we should hold on in the face of battlefield reverses."

"We were elated when Jane Fonda, wearing a red Vietnamese dress, said at a press conference that she was ashamed of American actions in the war," the North Vietnamese military man explained.

"Through dissent and protest [America] lost the ability to mobilize a will to win," Col. Tin concluded. "

Thanks for taking the time to help us out. You are the ones who clearly support the troops... because you support our mission. You may not appreciate the role you will play in helping to win this fight. But I do.

Thanks again.


Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Victory in Iraq Caucus

The formation of the Out of Iraq Caucus in the US House of Representatives was certainly not an encouraging sign for the soldiers in the War on Terror. War, as Clausewitz pointed out, is not ultimately about killing the enemy: it is about breaking his will to resist. Whatever the intentions of the leaders of the Caucus, it scarcely looked like a contribution to breaking the enemy's will. Especially when 59 congressman signed a bill calling for US withdrawal to begin in October 2006. The Caucus looked instead like an excuse to cut and run--and hence an encitement to more terrorism.

Well: hang on. The Caucus just met with Gen. Wesley Clark:

Clark met privately with the members of the Out of Iraq Caucus to give them his perspective on the ongoing conflict and offer advice on how Democrats should frame their arguments for bringing troops home. His call: Avoid specific timelines for withdrawal and focus instead on calling for and developing strategies for success that rely not on the military, but on diplomacy.

One might have expected the Caucus to inform Clark that he had just exposed himself as a neoconservative. On the contrary:

(Rep. Maxine) Waters (D-Calif.) said that while some in the caucus want an immediate withdrawal, the Out of Iraq effort is inclined to follow the lead of Clark and present a plan relying heavily on diplomatic means for concluding the engagement.

Now comes shock number two. The above is posted on the Daily Kos website. Included is a poll of DKos members asking if they agree with Gen Clark's advice.

51% Yes
24% No
18% (Sort of agree!)
(As of 10.30pm Thursday 22 September 2005)

Unbelievable. So even the most hardline members of the Congressional left aren't willing to stick to their call for an October 2006 withdrawal. And rather than responding with a unified cry of outrage and betrayal, the internet leftists at DKos mostly agree. So they talk now of a vague call for diplomacy as a path to pullout.

The significance of this should be clear. The terrorists in Iraq cannot win on the ground. They cannot defeat American troops in the field, and they cannot prevail against the 60% Shiite/20% Kurdish majority that wants democracy and freedom. The terrorists have always known this, and they know this now. Their only hope has been to create a Walter Cronkite/Tet 1968 moment: an upsurge of terror that convinces the networks and the American people to quit, cut and run.

What tonight's news tells us is that this is not going to happen. Leave aside the point that President Bush is not an LBJ-style quitter, and that the GOP controls the Congress. Even the most extreme members of the American Left are not ready to turn Baghdad 2006 into Saigon 1975. The Pentagon will be able to finish the training of the new Iraqi Army, and will be able to leave when its job is finished--and not in answer to pressure from a panicked American public.

Yesterday Jalal Talabani, the first democratically elected president of Iraq, appealed to the American public to support the troops in Iraq until the mission was finished. Talabani's appeal is remarkable, and no short excerpts do it justice. It is a ringing affirmation of democracy, and a salute to the American soldiers that have helped create it. The appeal is a must-read.

And the good news is that there is every indication that he will get his wish.

W as LBJ: ranking the great presidents

For the last five years the repeated theme of much of the national newsmedia has been W as "radical conservative", "conservative ideologue"--a heartless right-winger eager to throw poor people out in the snow. I've been trying for some time to point out that there is not much conservative--at least in any traditional sense of the word conservative--about W...it's been clear for some time that he has little in common with Barry Goldwater, but a lot in common with the last Texan president: LBJ.

The hard data has now been generated over at AEI:

In terms of inflation-adjusted domestic discretionary spending:

LBJ............+34%
Nixon.........+23
Carter........+8
Reagan 1....-10
Reagan 2....+0.2
Bush 41......+14
Clinton 1.....+0.7
Clinton 2.....+14
Bush 43......+25

So if a willingness to expand domestic spending is what constitutes a great president, a man of compassion, a leader committed to social justice, the rankings would be:

LBJ...........+34
Bush 43.....+25
Nixon........+23
Clinton 2....+14
Bush 41.....+14
Carter.......+8
Clinton 1.....+0.7
Reagan 2....+0.2
Reagan 1....-10

It's a good lesson in how little American political rhetoric as to do with reality. Only one president has actually cut domestic spending in real terms in the last generation: Reagan, and only in his first term. Meanwhile, the biggest spenders have been LBJ, W, and Nixon. It must be some kind of political joke that Nixon and W--the two presidents that the American left has hated with the deepest viciousness and intensity--are precisely the two with the biggest domestic spending records.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

McCain 2008--Round 2

John McCain's recent call to repeal the Medicare prescription drug bill--in order to pay for Katrina--is causing some re-assessments over at RedState.

On McCain, I'm critical...but sympathetic:

1. His defense record is impeccable.
2. His record on tax cuts is much better than I had realized.
3. And his pro-life record is as strong as W's, if not stronger:

McCain beat George W. Bush in New Hampshire, in a nineteenpoint upset, but the storybook campaign ended when the Bush machine retaliated, in the infamous South Carolina primary. McCain had hoped that South Carolina's large veteran population would help him win there; but the Christian Coalition, deeply entrenched in the state, became the decisive constituency. Somewhat surprisingly, McCain had the support of Gary Bauer, the social conservative, who had dropped out of the race by that time. "I wanted a commitment from either George Bush or John McCain that if elected he would appoint pro-life judges to the Supreme Court," Bauer told me. "Bush said he had no litmus test, and his judges would be strict constructionists. But McCain, in private, assured me he would appoint pro-life judges."

UPDATE: Found this:

Recently Gary Bauer claimed John McCain had privately told him in 2000 that he would appoint pro-life judges to the courts as president. Then Governor Bush had told Bauer he has “no litmus test” for judges.

Appearing on CNN’s Late Edition on Sunday, McCain was asked about the rumored exchange with Bauer. He responded, “First of all, it was a private conversation. I won't talk about it. But I can tell you that there would be not litmus test for a judge if I were president of the United States. And obviously I'm going to wait a couple of years before I even make that decision.”


Ahem: isn't the usual line silence means consent?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Do Atheists have a Constitutional Right to be Free of Religion?

So asks Sam Nicholas:

In San Francisco today, United States District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools was not constitutional because the pledge's reference to one nation "under God" violates a Constitutional right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God.”

This case frames in a most dramatic way the question of whether we are a secular nation or a religious nation. Are we a nation “under God” or not? Should we be?

I can only respond with the following:

“On September 11, 2001 I was attending in Rome, Italy an international conference of judges and lawyers, principally from Europe and the United States. That night and the next morning virtually all of the participants watched, in their hotel rooms, the address to the Nation by the President of the United States concerning the

murderous attacks upon the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, in which thousands of Americans had been killed. The address ended, as Presidential addresses often do, with the prayer “God bless America.” The next afternoon I was approached by one of the judges from a European country, who, after extending his profound condolences for my country's loss, sadly observed “How I wish that the Head of State of my country, at a similar time of national tragedy and distress, could conclude his address ‘God bless ______.’ It is of course absolutely forbidden.” That is one model of the relationship between church and state-a model spread across Europe by the armies of Napoleon, and reflected in the Constitution of France, which begins “France is [a] ••• secular ••• Republic.” Religion is to be strictly excluded from the public forum. This is not, and never was, the model adopted by America. George Washington added to the form of Presidential oath prescribed by Art. II, § 1, cl. 8, of the Constitution, the concluding words “so help me God.” The Supreme Court under John Marshall opened its sessions with the prayer, “God save the United States and this Honorable Court.” The First Congress instituted the practice of beginning its legislative sessions with a prayer. The same week that Congress submitted the Establishment Clause as part of the Bill of Rights for ratification by the States, it enacted legislation providing for paid chaplains in the House and Senate. The day after the First Amendment was proposed, the same Congress that had proposed it requested the President to proclaim “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed, by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many and signal favours of Almighty God.” President Washington offered the first Thanksgiving Proclamation shortly thereafter, devoting November 26, 1789 on behalf of the American people ‘to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that is, that was, or that will be,’ thus beginning a tradition of offering gratitude to God that continues today. The same Congress also reenacted the Northwest Territory Ordinance of 1787, 1 Stat. 50, Article III of which provided: “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” And of course the First Amendment itself accords religion (and no other manner of belief) special constitutional protection. These actions of our First President and Congress and the Marshall Court were not idiosyncratic; they reflected the beliefs of the period. Those who wrote the Constitution believed that morality was essential to the well-being of society and that encouragement of religion was the best way to foster morality. The fact that the Founding Fathers believed devotedly that there was a God and that the unalienable rights of man were rooted in Him is clearly evidenced in their writings, from the Mayflower Compact to the Constitution itself. President Washington opened his Presidency with a prayer, and reminded his fellow citizens at the conclusion of it that “reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” President John Adams wrote to the Massachusetts Militia, “we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Thomas Jefferson concluded his second inaugural address by inviting his audience to pray: “I shall need, too, the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life; who has covered our infancy with His providence and our riper years with His wisdom and power and to whose goodness I ask you to join in supplications with me that He will so enlighten the minds of your servants, guide their councils, and prosper their measures that whatsoever they do shall result in your good, and shall secure to you the peace, friendship, and approbation of all nations.” James Madison, in his first inaugural address, likewise placed his confidence “in the guardianship and guidance of that Almighty Being whose power regulates the destiny of nations, whose blessings have been so conspicuously dispensed to this rising Republic, and to whom we are bound to address our devout gratitude for the past, as well as our fervent supplications and best hopes for the future.”
Nor have the views of our people on this matter significantly changed. Presidents continue to conclude the Presidential oath with the words “so help me God.” Our legislatures, state and national, continue to open their sessions with prayer led by official chaplains. The sessions of this Court continue to open with the prayer “God save the United States and this Honorable Court.” Invocation of the Almighty by our public figures, at all levels of government, remains commonplace. Our coinage bears the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST.” And our Pledge of Allegiance contains the acknowledgment that we are a Nation “under God.” As one of our Supreme Court opinions rightly observed, ‘We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.’ With all of this reality (and much more) staring it in the face, how can the Court possibly assert that ‘the First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between ••• religion and nonreligion…’” From the Dissent by Justice Scalia, joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justice Thomas, and Justice Kennedy in the Supreme Court Case McCreary County, Ky vs. American Civil Liberties Union of Ky (2005), citations and footnotes omitted.


According to the American Religious Identification Survey 2001, less than a half of a percent of the population are self-declared Atheists. The Liberal activists in the US Supreme Court may also soon become a minority. Perhaps there is still hope for help from God.


In the Middle,

Sam Nicolas


I would comment that I think the dichotomy between a "secular" nation and a "religious" nation is false: specifically, belief in God is fundamentally philosophical and as such is consistent with both secular and religious cultures. I would agree that the US Constitution creates a secular republic, but would disagree that this means that all public references to God are excluded--as the evidence of the founding fathers in the above post amply supports.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Aristotle and the Pledge of Allegiance: the only firm basis of liberty

The inevitable:

Judge: School Pledge Is Unconstitutional
Sep 14 2:39 PM US/Eastern


By DAVID KRAVETS
Associated Press Writer


SAN FRANCISCO


Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools was declared unconstitutional Wednesday by a federal judge ruling in the second attempt by an atheist to have the pledge removed from classrooms. The man lost his previous battle before the U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the pledge's reference to one nation "under God" violates school children's right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God."

Karlton said he was bound by precedent of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2002 ruled in favor of Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public schools.


This was inevitable in part because of the philosophical crack-up in American education for what is now at least a generation. The court clearly thinks that "one nation under God" is an affirmantion of religion, and hence contrary to the establishment clasue of the First Amendment.

But that isn't the way the Founding Fathers thought about these issues. For the Founders, the existence of God was simply a fact, amply attested by philosophers since the time of Aristotle. For them, the fact of the existence of God had been rendered all but irrefutable by the rise of Newtonian physics since there was no rational explanation for the existence and power of the laws of physics--except that they had been written and effected by a Supreme Being. And this conclusion was certainly affirmed by Newton himself.

By contrast religion was the way in which Man worshipped this God--whether as Catholics, Protestants, Deists, free-thinkers, Muslims or in other ways. On this issue of religion--conceived as the problem of God's worship rather than his existence--the state was strictly neutral. Hence the famous 1796 Treaty with Tripoli where it was formally declared that: "the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."

For the Founders then, the government could legitimately affirm the existence of God as a philosophical/scientific fact while at the same time the government was forbidden to establish any form of worship as the American national religion.

This distinction between God as a matter of philosophy and church as a matter of religion is absolutely essential to understanding the Founding Fathers.

This is why Thomas Jefferson--the author of the phrase "separation of church and state"--could write a document like the Declaration of Indepence in which God is made absolutely basic to the whole philosophical foundations of the document.

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

The phrase "the laws of nature and of nature's God" reflects the traditional position of Aristotelian philosophy that nature cannot be adequately explained apart from reference to a supreme God. The specific phrasing of "laws of nature" picks up the conviction that Newton's laws required for their adequate explanation some kind of a supreme God--and that the rights of man were rooted in the existence of this God.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. For Jefferson and the founding fathers, the basic human rights for which they went to war were not rooted in a philosophical vacuum. On the contrary: human rights are endowed by their Creator. This is the creator already specified in the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, the author of Newton's laws of nature.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States... --And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Here Jefferson publicly commits the new nation to "the Supreme Judge of the World" and declares "a firm reliance on Divine Providence". Notice that this is not a private expression of piety on Jefferson's part--this is a legal document of the American government.

Is Jefferson here contradicting his commitment to separation of Church and State? Not at all: Jefferson is rather drawing the distinction between God as a philosophical principle--which he always held as legitimate--and religion as the worship done by a church--which he always excluded.

Nor is belief in God something casual for Jefferson--it is rather absolutely essential to his and the founding fathers' understanding of the foundations of democracy. The democracy which the Declaration of Independence founds is built squarely on "the laws of Nature and Nature's God."

The gulf between Jefferson and postmodern relativism is as deep as the Grand Canyon. For relativists, God is excluded from any public reference by the government--attempts to appeal to God are seen as intolerant, subversive of democracy, and the evil work of theocrats. For Jefferson and the founders, the existence of God was the absolute foundation of democracy: "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?" (Jefferson, Notes on Virginia 1782).

Jefferson's language is startling to today's historically illiterate generation. God is not described merely as a possible foundation of democracy. He is rather described as their only firm basis. Were Jefferson alive today, he doubtless be accused by some of being a theocrat. But Jefferson and the founders were nothing of the kind. They saw God as the essential philosophical basis of democracy and affirmed it, while strictly excluding any specific religion from authority in the American government.

It is in this context that we recall the specific decision to place the phrase "under God" in the pledge of allegiance. The earliest version of the pledge of allegiance goes back to 1982 and the socialist Francis Bellamy. The phrase "under God" was added by President Eisenhower at the height of the Cold War:

The legislative history of the 1954 act stated that the hope was to "acknowledge the dependence of our people and our Government upon … the Creator … [and] deny the atheistic and materialistic concept of communism." In signing the bill on June 14, 1954, Flag Day, Eisenhower delighted in the fact that from then on, "millions of our schoolchildren will daily proclaim in every city and town … the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty."

Eisenhower and the Greatest Generation rightly understood that faith in God was the fundamental principle that separated democracy and communism. There wasn't even any meaningful debate on it. John F. Kennedy in his celebrated inaugural address declared:

"[We] observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom—symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning—signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.
The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe—the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God."


JFK here identified at a single stroke the issue that separated democracy and communism: the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God. And he made it very clear that the belief that these rights come from God was the conviction of the Founding Fathers: the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe.

Again, this was not some odd belief peculiar to Eisenhower or Kennedy. It was the unanimous common sense of the American people. It is only the rise of a historically illiterate generation of postmodern judges and political leaders that has ever thought otherwise.

Now perhaps two centuries of Americans are wrong. Perhaps there isn't any God. And perhaps--if there is a God--he (or she or it) has no relation to foundational democratic principles. Perhaps--as postmodernists often think--belief in God is absolutely antithetical to democracy and places all of us at risk of a theocratic dictatorship.

Perhaps.

But for constitutional purposes this misses the point. The Consitution adopted in 1789 and the subsequent Bill of Rights were never intended to nullify the Declartion of Independence--they were intended to implement it. They were intended to create a government that would secure liberty according to "the laws of nature and nature's God."

Hence any attempt to read the Constitution in such a way as to exclude the Declaration of Independence is absolutely null and utterly void. It can only be done by dismissing history itself--by replacing the real Constitution, the one ratified by We the People, with a Constitution that is the creation of a fictional history.

Part of the problem here is the decline of American education. With the exclusion of the classics from the traditional liberal arts education we are left with the educated barbarians of the university classes--highly intelligent and successful men and women who have never read Aristotle or Cicero, and who imagine that any reference to "God" is automatically a matter of "faith" or "religion", and hence a violation of separation of Church and State.

The return to wisdom in these matters begins with the insight of Aristotle, which is cited by Cicero, and posted at the top of this blog:

If there were men whose habitations had been always underground, and if the earth should open, and they should immediately behold the sun, and observe his glory and beauty; the heavens bespangled and adorned with stars; the moon as she waxes and wanes; the rising and setting of all the stars, and the inviolable regularity of their courses…When they should see these things, they would surely conclude that there are Gods, and that these are their mighty works.—Aristotle

UPDATE: LaShawn is on the case.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

September 11th: The Spirit of Liberty


Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen.

I ask ...for your patience in what will be a long struggle.

The advance of human freedom -- the great achievement of our time, and the great hope of every time -- now depends on us. Our nation -- this generation -- will lift a dark threat of violence from our people and our future... We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.
--George W. Bush/20 September 2001

Friday, September 09, 2005

TIME leads a lynch mob: Knotting the noose on Michael Brown's neck

It's no secret whom the MSM wants to lynch for the crisis in New Orleans: the head of FEMA Michael Brown. Looping the rope around his neck is TIME magazine in an article titled, How Reliable Is Brown's Resume? The article insinuates that Brown padded his resume.

But there is no evidence that either the TIME article's two authors or their six co-reporters ever troubled themselves to get a copy of the beleaguered Mr Brown's resume to read in the first place. What we have here is a sloppy piece of third-rate reporting, poorly researched, and shoveled out to meet a deadline; it shows a reckless disregard for truth and a reckless disregard for the reputation of the public figure in question. Let's take a look at the article.

Now, an investigation by TIME has found discrepancies in his online legal profile and official bio, including a description of Brown released by the White House at the time of his nomination in 2001 to the job as deputy chief of FEMA.

Here, as so frequently when an editor is doing bad work, the headline gives a false or misleading statement of the story content. The headline refers specifically to Brown's resume; but the article refers to a White House description, then an official bio and an online legal profile. None of these are the same as a resume.

This is not a small quibble. As a college teacher, I submit to my college every year an updated copy of my resume. My college has failed two years in a row to convert that resume into an accurate statement of qualifications either for its on-line profile or for our college catalogs. My attempts to correct my college's errors have either been ignored by the relevant department or then transcribed with even more errors. I am quite certain I am not the only human being on planet earth to have experienced this kind of problem.

TIME magazine's claim--assuming it can be proved--that there are errors in Brown's on-line profile, official bio, and in the White House statements about him proves nothing about whether Brown padded his resume. That can only be proved by printing Brown's resume itself--which TIME's investigation apparently could not be bothered to locate. That Brown's resume might not be the same as a White House description of it is the kind of thing that smart, tough, critical reporters might have considered. But critical thinking skills seem to be in short supply for some reporters at TIME.

This simple point destroys the entire article. Unless TIME can show that Brown personally has circulated false statements about himself, the whole article collapses. Otherwise, all TIME can claim is that some on-line reports about Brown have mistakes in them--a claim that is simply not newsworthy.

Before joining FEMA, his only previous stint in emergency management, according to his bio posted on FEMA's website, was "serving as an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight." The White House press release from 2001 stated that Brown worked for the city of Edmond, Okla., from 1975 to 1978 "overseeing the emergency services division." In fact, according to Claudia Deakins, head of public relations for the city of Edmond, Brown was an "assistant to the city manager" from 1977 to 1980, not a manager himself, and had no authority over other employees.

Sorry: this proves nothing. 1) We still have no resume here, only a posting from on-line. 2) The White House/official bio statements merely mention "oversight/overseeing". That's not necessarily the same as having "authority over other employees"--congressional oversight committees, to take the most obvious examples, do not have authority over the agencies they oversee. The White House/official bio statements are not thereby shown to state anything false--only something that reporters looking to lynch a man can easily misread. 3) Similarly, the problems of 1975-1978 vs. 1977-1980 give no evidence of resume padding--only of some kind of mistake or error at some point in some on-line documents. 4) Similarly again with assistant city manager vs. assistant to the city manager. TIME provides no evidence that Brown is responsible for these discrepancies.

Under the heading of "Professional Associations and Memberships" on FindLaw, Brown states that from 1983 to the present he has been director of the Oklahoma Christian Home, a nursing home in Edmond. But an administrator with the Home told TIME that Brown is "not a person that anyone here is familiar with." She says there was a board of directors until a couple of years ago, but she couldn't find anyone who recalled him being on it. According to FEMA's Andrews, Brown said "he's never claimed to be the director of the home. He was on the board of directors, or governors of the nursing home." However, a veteran employee at the center since 1981 says Brown "was never director here, was never on the board of directors, was never executive director. He was never here in any capacity. I never heard his name mentioned here."

Where is Ben Bradlee when you need him? What kind of sorry excuse for reporting is this? 1) TIME never documents that Brown states anything--only that his on-line profile at FindLaw does. But that is only part of the problem. 2) Being on the board of directors is not an opinion dependent on the vague memories of unnamed sources--it's either a fact or it isn't. And somewhere there is documentation that either confirms his being on the board of directors or refutes it. But TIME's team of truth-seeking reporters couldn't be troubled to locate this documentation. Instead, they relied on the unverified memories of unnamed sources. Pathetic. If you have the evidence to prove your point, then produce your evidence and hang your man. If you don't have the evidence, then don't make the assertion. If you're too lazy to locate the evidence, then don't go to print.

Under the "honors and awards" section of his profile at FindLaw.com — which is information on the legal website provided by lawyers or their offices—he lists "Outstanding Political Science Professor, Central State University". However, Brown "wasn't a professor here, he was only a student here," says Charles Johnson, News Bureau Director in the University Relations office at the University of Central Oklahoma (formerly named Central State University). "He may have been an adjunct instructor," says Johnson, but that title is very different from that of "professor." Carl Reherman, a former political science professor at the University through the '70s and '80s, says that Brown "was not on the faculty." As for the honor of "Outstanding Political Science Professor," Johnson says, "I spoke with the department chair yesterday and he's not aware of it." Johnson could not confirm that Brown made the Dean's list or was an "Outstanding Political Science Senior," as is stated on his online profile.

Speaking for Brown, Andrews says that Brown has never claimed to be a political science professor, in spite of what his profile in FindLaw indicates. "He was named the outstanding political science senior at Central State, and was an adjunct professor at Oklahoma City School of Law."


Here the TIME reporters begin to show something of a guilty conscience. They refer to FindLaw info as provided by lawyers or their offices (my emphasis). It would be very interesting to see how many attorneys have checked what their law firms have provided to FindLaw and what the error rate is. I'd hate to be held accountable by TIME for what my college publishes about me. Speaking for Brown, Andrews says that Brown has never claimed to be a political science professor, in spite of what his profile in FindLaw indicates. So: according to Brown's spokesman, there are errors in the FindLaw profile. That looks like the end of the story.

Brown's lack of experience in emergency management isn't the only apparent bit of padding on his resume, which raises questions about how rigorously the White House vetted him before putting him in charge of FEMA.

Ahem: apparent bit of padding? Apparent? You've either got the goods on this guy or you don't. The weasel words about "apparent" are the kind of things written by reporters who know somewhere in their hearts that they can't prove their case.

Ahem number two: apparent bit of padding of the resume? But the resume is exactly what this bold team of would-be Woodward and Bernsteins have never provided. They have recklessly identified on-line profiles and White House fact sheets with Brown's own resume. They have identified possible errors in these sources. And with no documentation so far, they have proceeded to smear Mr Brown. As journalism--well, it's not up to the standard of any self-respecting blog.

But our intrepid aces are not yet done:

Brown's lack of experience in emergency management isn't the only apparent bit of padding on his resume, which raises questions about how rigorously the White House vetted him before putting him in charge of FEMA.

The real questions here are about how vigorously TIME bothers to edit its stories before rushing them on-line. But TIME here gratuitously omits the most important part of Brown's on-line bio and the part that explains exactly how Brown got his job:

Previously, Mr. Brown served as FEMA's Deputy Director and the agency's General Counsel. Shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks, Mr. Brown served on the President's Consequence Management Principal's Committee, which acted as the White House's policy coordination group for the federal domestic response to the attacks. Later, the President asked him to head the Consequence Management Working Group to identify and resolve key issues regarding the federal response plan. In August 2002, President Bush appointed him to the Transition Planning Office for the new Department of Homeland Security, serving as the transition leader for the EP&R Division.

In other words, Brown got his job by doing what his superiors regarded rightly or wrongly as excellent work--not by providing for his superiors a padded resume. Notably, TIME doesn't try to claime that this part of his bio is "padded". And TIME omits this too:

Under Secretary Brown has led Homeland Security’s response to more than 164 presidentially declared disasters and emergencies, including the 2003 Columbia Shuttle disaster and the California wildfires in 2003. In 2004, Mr. Brown led FEMA’s thousands of dedicated disaster workers during the most active hurricane season in over 100 years, as FEMA delivered aid more quickly and more efficiently than ever before.

Now I don't want to be misunderstood. 1) I have no opinion here on what kind of a job Brown did managing New Orleans--if he really is the reason for failure, then hang him high. 2) Nor am I stating that Brown has never padded his resume--only that TIME hasn't proved that Brown has done anything of the kind. My point is simply 3) TIME rushed into print with accusations of resume padding against Brown without bothering to do even the most elementary kind of fact-checking: such as getting a copy of his resume and getting written documentation of the board of directors in question.

It is possible that later evidence will show that some of the charges against Brown are correct. But no subsequent evidence can change the fact that TIME recklessly rushed into print grave charges against the honor of a public official with little or no serious attempt to discover the truth.


W the Democrat

TigerHawk has an excellent post on W:

Bush is Really a Democrat You Know

At a very high level, he has pursued an extraordinarily populist agenda and run a Keynesian economic policy. Let me enumerate:

1) Foreign Policy - core is spread of Democracy to Protect the Homeland -- in the 20th Century, the forebears of this policy were Woodrow Wilson ("Making the World Safe for Democracy") and FDR. This is a classical liberal internationalist agenda. This used to be the territory of the Democrats, even through JFK, until LBJ's presidency destroyed the Democratic hegemony over the liberal international agenda. Today, many (most?) vocal Democrats lurch towards pacifism and isolationism.

2) Economic Policy - in response first to the massive decline in equity values wrought by the internet/telecom stock market bubble bursting, and then to the subsequent recession and 9/11 assault, the Bush Administration passed through Congress massive fiscal stimulus -- known also as a tax cut -- to every single taxpayer in this country. This type of policy is classic Keynesian economics, heretofore again the domain of Democrats, not Republicans. This fiscal accomodation was subsequently also assisted with massive monetary stimulus (lower rates from Greenspan), to help the US economy recover from the massive multiple shocks of a market crash, a recession and an attack on the homeland. The result has been nothing short of fantastic, with a very shallow recession, unprecedentedly low unemployment (in the context of a recession) and now a powerful multiyear re-expansion. The Republicans of 1929 failed to follow this prescription and the rest is history. In this case, Bush administered massive stimulus (more like JFK and then Reagan) to push the economy.

3) Social policy - Bush has appointed not one but two African Americans to the highest cabinet post yet achieved, Secretary of State. He has appointed a Hispanic American as Attorney General, again unprecedented. He has passed the most unbelievable entitlement expansion since the 1960's in the form of Medicare Part D, the Prescription Drug Plan. Congress, with the President's support, is spending like mad, and government is growing rapidly -- again, the historical province of Democrats, not Republicans. The growth of Medicaid spending, Education Spending -- again all higher than ever...the list goes on and on.

4) And then there is Immigration Policy - well this can only be described as Open Door, especially in light of 9/11. So much so that many people on both sides of the aisle are screaming about it. Yet the Open Door was historically again the province of Democrats, not Fortress America Republicans.


This is pretty much dead-on. One needs to add that his social policy (abortion, etc) is the social conservatism of the Democratic party of the New Deal era, not the liberalism of the post-McGovern Democrats.

But otherwise it fits W to a T. Even the privatization of part of Social Security (apparently) has its roots in FDR.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

W and the Democracy Project

W doesn't get a lot of positive ink from Kevin Drum, so this leaps out:

"REFORM IN THE MIDDLE EAST....Abu Aardvark passes along the conclusions from a recent study about the roots of support for terrorism in the Islamic world:
One set of findings wasn't surprising, but bears noting: the data consistently show that there is no relationship between levels of personal religiosity and attitudes towards democracy. Such findings should eventually begin to wear down the view that Islam is somehow incompatible with procedural democracy.
But the really interesting part was this: he ran regressions on nine different families of variables — everything from education to gender to religiosity to income — to find out what best explained expressions of support for terrorism. None of these shows any stasticially significant relationship. The only independent variables significantly correlated with support for terrorism were "negative views of U.S. foreign policy" and — and here's the interesting part — "negative views of one's own political system."
In other words, promoting systemic reform in Middle Eastern autocracies is probably good for the United States. It kills two birds with one stone, so to speak.
The aardvark also has some good words for Karen Hughes in her new role as head of public diplomacy in the State Department. Apparently she's on the right track."

Senator Martinez for the US Supreme Court?

So thinks NewsMax, which claims that Senator Mel Martinez (R-Florida) has made President Bush's short list.

If so, it would be a great pick.

1. He has the confidence of pro-life leaders--a key part of the GOP constituency. Martinez has been crystal clear in opposing Roe v. Wade: "I am devoted to the pro-life cause in America." And again: “As Florida’s next U.S. Senator, I will go toe-to-toe with Ted Kennedy on the JudiciaryCommittee over confirming judges. I will insist that we confirm judges who will adhere to the limits of judicial authority -- judges who will use the bench to interpretand defend the Constitution, not pursue fringe political agendas.”

2. He would enable President Bush to appoint the first Hispanic to the Supreme Court--without the controversy surrounding Attorney General Gonzales. His dramatic life story--a Cuban refugee who came to America as a teenager and went straight to the top--will win him a broad and sympathetic hearing. A decision to filibuster Martinez would put the Democratic party in the very bad position of filibustering the first Hispanic appointee to the US Supreme Court.

3. As a member of the senatorial club, he would likely pick up strong support from his peers: Harry Reid would probably have little choice as Democratic Senate leader but to offer bi-partisan support since he personally suggested Martinez:

Reid later offered three names of people he said would be good for the court: GOP Sens. Mel Martinez of Florida, Mike DeWine of Ohio and Mike Crapo of Indiana. They “are people who serve in the Senate now who are Republicans who I think would be outstanding Supreme Court members,” Reid said.

It's not impossible that Senator Reid could flip-flop. But it would be difficult for Senate Democrats to filibuster a man that Senator Reid has already declared to be an "outstanding Supreme Court" appointee.

4. Catches? a) Sen. Martinez is 58--somewhat older than the president might prefer. b) A staffer for Sen. Martinez wrote the Schiavo memo--which won't help the senator. c) Senator Martinez ran a brass-knuckles senate campaign accusing one opponent of being the "new darling of homosexual extremists". d) Sen. Martinez is a first-term senator with less than a year in the senate and no previous experience on the bench. His principal credentials are his 25 years as a succesful lawyer in Orlando and his experience as Secretary of HUD under W.

5. Although Sen. Martinez would probably be confirmed, it probably wouldn't be without a fight: his strong pro-life and pro-Schiavo credentials, his strong language as a campaigner, and his lack of experience on the bench might make it difficult for him to avoid the firestorm that Judge Roberts has so far been able to dodge.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Why W is not a "real" conservative

William Stuntz of Harvard Law School has a terrific article on Rehnquist and W, and gets closer to the heart of the latter than 98% of what I've read anywhere.

The News Blizzard...

President Bush has made an excellent choice, promoting Roberts to the Chief Justice slot.

Rick Moran has a careful timeline for the government response to Katrina, a cool refutation to some hot-headed rhetoric.

Mayor Nagin remains hot and angry...but positive about President Bush: "I want to see stuff done. And that’s why I’m so happy that the president came down here, because I think they were feeding him a line of bull also. And they were telling him things weren’t as bad as it was.

He came down and saw it, and he put a general on the field. His name is General Honore. And when he hit the field, we started to see action."

Mayor Nagin has a different take on Governor Blanco:
"I was abdicating [s/b advocating] a clear chain of command, so that we could get resources flowing in the right places.

S. O’BRIEN: And the governor said no.

NAGIN: She said that she needed 24 hours to make a decision. It would have been great if we could of left Air Force One, walked outside, and told the world that we had this all worked out. It didn’t happen, and more people died." (HT: LGF)

The news on Governor Blanco is difficult to believe: as of 5 Sept 2005 at 5.46pm, "Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco has refused to sign over National Guard control to the federal government and has turned to a Clinton administration official, former Federal Emergency Management Agency chief James Lee Witt, to help run relief efforts." This may help explain why the death toll is currently being projected at 10,000.

Rich Lowry gives the breakdown on what happened exactly:
Was just talking to someone who knows military matters and disaster relief, and has been following the situation on the Gulf Coast very closely. Several points (excuse the repetitions):

--“The mayor and the governor are negligent and incompetent. The administration has tried to smooth out the chain of command, but she won't do it. The constitution says that the governor is in charge of the Guard.” (The Washington Post wrote about this on Saturday--and KJL excerpted the relevant bit in here.)

--“None of those poor people were moved prior to the storm. They were told to go to the Superdome, but they had to walk there. Whose responsibility is that?”

-- “General Honore in one day got 20,000 people evacuated from the convention center with a ground and air evacuation. Have you heard about that in the media?”

--“The DoD has been tasked with 40-50 missions here. DoD is the go-to organization for DHS. DHS is trying to build the capacity, but doesn't have it yet. DHS is all brain power and no brawn.”

--“Michael Brown has not done a good job and is in over his head. But, in fairness, FEMA is not organized to handle a catastrophe of this size.”

--“There will be 50k troops there by mid-week, a combination of active duty and National Guard. Including elements of 82nd Airborne Division, First Cavalry Division, and two Marine brigades. That's in just over a week. That's amazing. But no one realizes it. They had to trot General Honore out this morning to try to explain to the media how you move troops. There were National Guard pre-positioned in the north part of Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana two days the storm, watching the storm, seeing which way it was going to go, and once the storm hit, moving troops in immediately. There was a flow-plan that's been working since.”

--“The constitution says the governor is in charge of the Guard. The president would have to invoke the Insurrection Act to over-ride that. No president has done that since the Civil War. And he would have to do it over the head of the governor. Bush is not there yet.”

--“The military is there anyway on the principle: 'It's better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.' Federal troops can't do law enforcement. So they are being creative. National Guard will embed in active military units and be there to make actual arrests. That's very similar to what has been done in past hurricanes and the Coast Guard has done the same thing with the Navy in the past.”

--“There are no law enforcement problems in Mississippi. They have been acting there with the cooperation of the governor. In New Orleans, they don't have the same kind of cooperation from the governor or the mayor. It's not as stream-lined or as effective as it could be.”

--“The New Orleans police disintegrated. The national response plan calls for state and local to be the first on the scene. But the catastrophe wiped out the whole local infrastructure and the emergency communications. 80% of the police disintegrated and they are just not beginning to re-constitute.”

Meanwhile, LGF has the evidence of how badly the NO police disintegrated: the astonishing video of NO police officers looting a WalMarts.

And also the tragic pictures of the buses left that could have evacuated thousands left unused in New Orleans.