The Hedgehog Blog
Political and social observations from two aspiring hedgehogs who love the Isaiah Berlin essay.
Monday, May 30, 2005
IT IS THE SOLDIER
By Charles M. Province
It is the soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the soldier
Who salutes the flag,
Who serves under the flag,
Whose coffin is draped in the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.
(© Charles M. Province)
Sunday, May 29, 2005
Mitt Romney, governor of Massachusetts, has been one of those "mentioned" repeatedly as a possible Republican candidate for president in 2008. I am sure Romney wants to be mentioned, of course, and this week's Weekly Standard cover story does much more than mention him. Terry Eastland does a very fair job, I think, of covering Romney's political background. More important, Eastland's piece is the first one I have seen that explores, in depth, the possible political impact of Romney's membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed the "Mormon" Church). As a member of that church who is accustomed to misreprepresentation of my beliefs in the news media, I always read press treatments of such matters with apprehension, wondering if the story will be fair, will quote someone saying something malicious, or will ridicule or condescend.
Not this time. Eastland's article is no valentine, but it tells the truth (as far as I know) and does it fairly. I don't know yet if I will support Mitt Romney for the 2008 nomination, although I am certainly favorably inclined to do so-- not because he is a member of my church, but because of all he brings to the presidential table. (After all, Harry Reid is also a Mormon, but I wouldn't vote for Reid if he were running for dogcatcher. I understand Reid is a fine man, but a candidate's religious creed is no reason to vote for or against him or her. In fact, I think it's un-American to vote that way.)
In any event, I am happy to see that the first in-depth exploration of Romney's candidacy in a major publication has been so even-handed. Now let's see what George Allen has to say about the issues.
And Bill Frist.
But not John McCain, and not Chuck Hagel.
To read the Weekly Standard story, click here.
UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt finds the Weekly Standard story very important. Here's his analysis. Hugh's a very influential center-right commentator and talk show host who is also an unabashed and openly evangelical Christian, so his opinion matters. [Disclaimer: Hugh's my "blogfather," and I owe the existence of, and inspiration for, this blog to him. So I care a lot about what Hugh says.]
Saturday, May 28, 2005
Christos Karaberis (Chris Carr)
Following up my post below, my son and I, together with a group of Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, and their adult leaders, stood today at the grave of Chris Carr, who died in 1970. Born on April 16, 1914, he was 30 years old when the events that led to his receving the Medal of Honor took place. He has been in the service since 1942.
We listened as the following citation was read:
CARR, CHRIS (name legally changed from CHRISTOS H. KARABERIS, under which name the medal was awarded)
Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company L, 337th Infantry, 85th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Guignola, Italy, 1-2 October 1944. Entered service at: Manchester, N.H. Birth: Manchester, N.H. G.O. No.: 97, 1 November 1945.
Citation: Leading a squad of Company L, he gallantly cleared the way for his company's approach along a ridge toward its objective, the Casoni di Remagna. When his platoon was pinned down by heavy fire from enemy mortars, machineguns, machine pistols, and rifles, he climbed in advance of his squad on a maneuver around the left flank to locate and eliminate the enemy gun positions. Undeterred by deadly fire that ricocheted off the barren rocky hillside, he crept to the rear of the first machinegun and charged, firing his submachinegun. In this surprise attack he captured 8 prisoners and turned them over to his squad before striking out alone for a second machinegun. Discovered in his advance and subjected to direct fire from the hostile weapon, he leaped to his feet and ran forward, weaving and crouching, pouring automatic fire into the emplacement that killed 4 of its defenders and forced the surrender of a lone survivor. He again moved forward through heavy fire to attack a third machinegun. When close to the emplacement, he closed with a nerve-shattering shout and burst of fire. Paralyzed by his whirlwind attack, all 4 gunners immediately surrendered. Once more advancing aggressively in the face of a thoroughly alerted enemy, he approached a point of high ground occupied by 2 machineguns which were firing on his company on the slope below. Charging the first of these weapons, he killed 4 of the crew and captured 3 more. The 6 defenders of the adjacent position, cowed by the savagery of his assault, immediately gave up. By his l-man attack, heroically and voluntarily undertaken in the face of tremendous risks, Sgt. Karaberis captured 5 enemy machinegun positions, killed 8 Germans, took 22 prisoners, cleared the ridge leading to his company's objective, and drove a deep wedge into the enemy line, making it possible for his battalion to occupy important, commanding ground.
(According to this web site, "After the war, Karaberis legally changed his name to Chris Carr and continued in service through the Korean Conflict. Karaberis (Carr) died in Los Angeles, California on September 16, 1970 and is buried in the Los Angeles National Cemetery.")
After a few moments of contemplation, one of the younger Scouts placed an American flag one boot-length in front of Mr. Carr's gravestone while all present saluted or held a hand over their hearts.
As I left the cemetery that day, I said to myself the same thing I always say at that point: "I am so glad I came."
Friday, May 27, 2005
Planting of 20,000 Flags on Memorial Day, by Ellen White
Arlington Cemetery, 1976
Sometimes poignant experiences come our way when we least expect them. That happened to me last Memorial Day.
It's Memorial Day weekend, when our thoughts should turn to those who have served and sacrificed. In that spirit, here is the text of an e-mail I sent to friends and family last Memorial Day, just a few days before I started this blog.
In the spirit of the day I wanted to share with you all an experience from this Memorial Day weekend.
Saturday morning, for the sixth year out of the last seven, my sons (aged 18 and 14) and I put on our Scout uniforms (I am a former Scoutmaster and now serve with the volunteer Scouting commissioners in my area) and drove to L.A. National Cemetery to participate in the annual decoration of the veterans' graves there. We take a group from our LDS Stake every year. There is always a short patriotic program of remembrance. Then, several thousand Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts swarm over the grounds and plant flags on over 82,000 graves. At the end of the process the sight of all those acres of little American flags flapping in the breeze is breath-taking, thought-provoking, and downright beautiful.
This year, one aspect of the event stands out in my mind. It is how much my own two boys and other young men their age wanted to do this. They are normal teen-agers, and to participate in this event they have to get up at on a holiday weekend morning. But the same two teen-agers who are sometimes so hard to rouse out of bed on a weekday got up last Saturday morning at without any prodding. It is like that every year.
I am not the only parent who experiences this; others report the same phenomenon. Another young man in our LDS ward (who just finished his freshman year at college) heard about our plans and joined us. He is one of my former Scouts and a veteran of several past Memorial Day excursions to L.A. National.
When we got to the cemetery two other troops from our Stake joined us. We put flags on graves with names like Munemori (a Medal of Honor winner), Sadowski, Harvey, Cohen, and McCoy. There are Buffalo Soldiers buried at L.A. National (black freemen who fought in the West), as well as Tuskegee Airmen (black pilots in World War II).
After all the boys had planted flags at various graves, we held a brief ceremony at the grave of a Medal of Honor winner and remembered his heroism. (The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the
Why this eagerness to participate in such an event? I'm proud, of course, of my boys' commitment to this type of service and of their patriotism, but there is more to this story.
We are not a military family and have no special connection to veterans. What happened is that we took part in this event one year, and afterwards most boys who do so seem to want to take part again and again. My guess is that there is simply something compelling to them about the connection to the past and to the sacrifices of those who have gone before, and about the idea of
Every year the boys want to go. This year I was tired from a busy week of travel and could easily have passed on this event. But Friday night, as it is every year, it was "Hey Dad, what time are we leaving tomorrow for the cemetery?" So we pulled ourselves together and went, and have another year of great memories-- and deeper appreciation than ever before.
So happy Memorial Day to you all. And if you want to add some new awe-inspiring true stories to your collection, visit this web site:
It is the site for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, and includes the citation for every Medal of Honor ever awarded. You will find gems like this one:
HERRERA, SILVESTRE S.
Rank and organization:
Army, Company E, 142d Infantry, 36th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Private First Class, U.S. , Mertzwiller, France 15 March 1945. Entered service at: Birth: Phoenix, Ariz. , Tex. G.O. No.: 75, El Paso 5 September 1945. Citation: He advanced with a platoon along a wooded road until stopped by heavy enemy machinegun fire. As the rest of the unit took cover, he made a 1-man frontal assault on a strongpoint and captured 8 enemy soldiers. When the platoon resumed its advance and was subjected to fire from a second emplacement beyond an extensive minefield, Pvt. Herrera again moved forward, disregarding the danger of exploding mines, to attack the position. He stepped on a mine and had both feet severed but, despite intense pain and unchecked loss of blood, he pinned down the enemy with accurate rifle fire while a friendly squad captured the enemy gun by skirting the minefield and rushing in from the flank. The magnificent courage, extraordinary heroism, and willing self-sacrifice displayed by Pvt. Herrera resulted in the capture of 2 enemy strongpoints and the taking of 8 prisoners.
According to the web site, Silvestre Herrera is still living. He was in his 20's when he lost his feet fighting for our freedom. Let's all think about him today.Lowell
Have a happy and thoughtful Memorial Day!
UPDATE: The report from our 2005 visit to L.A. National Cemetery is above.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
Guest Post: The Iraqi "Insurgency"
I don't know who's in charge of our
ground forces in US , and who keeps making tactical mistakes that result in the never-ending piecemeal killing of our soldiers. Incidentally, I read where the road from Iraq city to the airport is 6 miles long, not 10, 15 or 20 miles, just 6. I would think a smart commander with access to see-in-the-dark, long endurance remotely controlled armed spy planes, along with special forces ground troops, would be able to make this 6-mile road a living hell for any so-called Iraqi insurgents, or other criminals, who are doing the damage with guns or roadside bombs. After all, someone has to be digging holes alongside the 6-mile long road for their explosives. Baghdad
Clandestine vehicle or personnel movements after dark should be detectable with today's recon technology. In such hostile territory you should be prepared to shoot first and ask questions later. Making this stretch of road dangerous to be seen on after dark might deliver a higher message too: We are through being a target.
I don't understand why a Bush-Rumsfeld meeting with the General Staff in
cannot sort this out, and begin a program to inflict grievous harm and bodily injury to those Iraqi insurgents, in these so-called "insurgent" Washington hot spots, in Baghdad , or anywhere else. Mosul
I also read where the Syrian representative to
said he was insulted by allegations that Washington was giving aid and comfort to insurgents on the Iraq/Syrian border. These people are too much. They get caught with their hand in the cookie jar and claim it was some one else, while the jar hangs from their fist. They are incredible people with predictable stances of studied innocence. Incidentally, I wonder how all these people in the Syria Middle Easthave infinite time to riot and burn effigies and flags, and so forth, and give photo ops to Newsweek et al. None of these people seem to have a daytime job. Perhaps they are paid by tabloids as members of Rent-A-Riot-For-Islam? Or better yet, financed by our friends in with Saudi Arabia oil money payments? US
Peggy Noonan, writing in Opinion Journal:
People who charge into burning towers are heroic; nuns who work with the
poorest of the poor are self-denying; people who volunteer their time to help
our world and receive nothing in return but the knowledge they are doing good
are in public service. Politicians are in politics. They are less self-denying
than self-aggrandizing. They are given fame, respect, the best health care in
the world; they pass laws governing your life and receive a million perks
including a good salary, and someone else--faceless taxpayers, "the folks back
home"--gets to pay for the whole thing. This isn't public service, it's more
like public command. It's not terrible--democracies need people who commit
politics; they have a place and a role to play--but it's not saintly, either.
Journalism is a means and journey, not an end. Just as our understanding of democracy has developed and changed (universal sufferage, new constitutional rights), so will our understanding of the processes of journalism. Isn't blogging sort of like universal sufferage for journalism? The best we can try to do is figure out ways that journalism can be more transparent, more accurate, etc.I just now discovered Miller's blog, Corante. It's a fine source of ideas and information; check it out.
Instapundit also has good thoughts.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
In several posts below I have been following the May 18 panel discussion in San Diego on the litigation there involving the Boy Scouts' access to public land. Just as a reminder, the discussion was a "webcast" and the subject was "The Constitution and the Boy Scouts: Equal Access to Government Land and the First Amendment." Panelists included a number of distinguished attorneys. You can view the webcast here.
One of the panelists was Eric Isaacson, who is a San Diego attorney involved in the San Diego litigation. It's my understanding the case was brought by the ACLU. Mr. Isaacson's involvement is limited to filing an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in that litigation. (I earlier wrote, erroneously, that Mr. Isaacson represented the ACLU in the case.)
Mr. Isaacson has won my respect by his exemplary willingness to comment here at length. By doing so he has highlighted the blogosphere's ability to she light on an issue quickly. Here is his comment, which he first posted below. I will respond as soon as I have a little time. (I also get to San Diego often and will see if I can persuadeMr. Isaccson to have lunch with me sometime.)
FULL DISCLOSURE: I Since January 1, 2005, I have served as a member of the Executive Board of the Western Los Angeles County Council of the Boy Scouts of America. I'm just a blogger who happens to be a former Scoutmaster, however. My views here are my own, and I have not consulted with anyone within the BSA about anything I post here.
Eric Isaacson's Comment:
I do not represent the ACLU or its clients in the Barnes-Wallace case.
With the Rev. Silvio Nardoni, my wife and I wrote an amicus curiae brief that we filed on behalf of the Social Justice Committee, Board of Trustees, ministers, and religious education director of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego (where my wife and I both teach Sunday school). Joining the brief were the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry California, and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations - - a denomination whose members include
This URL should take you to the brief, if you wish to read it:
Please understand that my denomination had a history of working with the BSA, with individual congregations sponsoring dozens of scout troops. Please understand that as a Boy Scout, I used the facilities at
The BSA's current hostility to my denomination is no secret, and it unquestionably is based on our religious traditions of affirming human dignity and opposing oppression and discrmination.
Eagle Scout Jay Mechling recounts in his book "On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth" (Univ. Chicago Press 2001) (p.227) that because we teach our children that institutionalized discrimination is wrong, the BSA "punished Unitarian Universalist Church and its Scout members by revoking the religious medal boys can earn." The Chicago Tribune (July 24, 1998) observed that the BSA "effectively excommunicated the Unitarians."
Since 1991, the BSA also has repeatedly and publicly condemned homosexuals as unclean. Indeed, citing a 1991 position paper, the BSA told the Supreme Court in Dale that homosexuality "'violates the Scout Law that a Scout be clean in word and deed.'" 530
Citing Thomas v. Review Board, 450 U.S. 707, 714 (1981), the Supreme Court ruled that the BSA is entitled to condemn and ostracize homosexuals as spiritually unclean, explaining: "'Religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others to merit First Amendment protection.'" 530
Let's be clear: The BSA is entitled to say what it likes, to denigrate whomever it wishes, and even to discriminate on the basis of children's religious viewpoint. It can exclude my own child. But it has no right to demand governmental sponsorship of its leadership's outspoken and horribly divisive theology - - sponsorship that I firmly believe our constitutions' religion clauses flatly prohibit.
- - Eric Isaacson
I am unfamiliar with the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA). I will not criticize a religion or its adherents on this blog, but I do want to provide information. A web site called Religious Tolerance offers some useful information about the conflict between the Boy Scouts and the UUA:
[I]ndividual UU youth might have difficulty with the Boy Scout oath which pledges duty to God. Many UUs are Agnostics (undecided whether God exists) or Atheists (do not believe that God exists). Pledging duty to God implies an acceptance that God exists. The UUA does not require its members to hold specific beliefs about the nature or existence of any deity or deities. A 1997 survey of almost 10,000 adult UUs showed that about half were either Humanists or Buddists, and thus had no believe in God.Religous Tolerance's summary of the UUA-Boy Scouts conflict seems even-handed to me; you can read it here. It seems to me that Mr. Isaacson's claim that the Scouts severed their relationship with the UUC because the UUA "teach [their] children that institutionalized discrimination is wrong" is a little simplistic.
Mr. Isaacson continues to claim that the Boy Scouts have "shunned" certain individuals "on the basis of theological viewpoint or sexual orientation." I don't think this is a fair characterization of what the Scouts have done. The Scouts have formed an association and have set standards for membership, including that members must be willing to live the Scout Oath and Law. The Scout Oath states:
On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.The Scout law:
A Scout is:
The Scouts have interpreted "morally straight" to encompass many things, including obedience to the civil law and moral behavior generally. The BSA's official web site on these matters, BSALegal.org, states the organization's position:
The Boy Scout Handbook (11th ed.) explains “morally straight” as “To be a person of strong character, your relationships with others should be honest and open. You should respect and defend the rights of all people. Be clean in your speech and actions, and remain faithful in your religious beliefs. The values you practice as a Scout will help you shape a life of virtue and self-reliance.”
The Handbook explains “clean” as “A Scout keeps his body and mind fit and clean. He chooses the company of those who live by high standards. He helps keep his home and community clean.”
The Scouts do not consider homosexual behavior to be "morally straight." Regarding adult leaders, for example:
Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed. Scouting’s moral position with respect to homosexual conduct accords with the moral positions of many millions of Americans and with religious denominations to which a majority of Americans belong. Because of these views concerning the morality of homosexual conduct, Boy Scouts of America believes that a known or avowed homosexual is not an appropriate role model of the Scout Oath and Law for adolescent boys.
Regarding youth leaders:
The conduct of youth members must be in compliance with the Scout Oath and Law, and membership in Boy Scouts of America is contingent upon the willingness to accept Scouting’s values and beliefs. Most boys join Scouting when they are 10 or 11 years old. As they continue in the program, all Scouts are expected to take leadership positions. In the unlikely event that an older boy were to hold himself out as homosexual, he would not be able to continue in a youth leadership position.
I don't think most people consider setting standards for membership to be "shunning;" it is unfair at best for Mr. Isaacson to use that term to describe what the Scouts are doing. I also think it is a gross distortion of BSA policy to claim the Scouts are calling anyone "spiritually unclean."
You'll find a treasure trove of information and news about Scout efforts on this issue here.
As for what Mr. Isaacson calls the Boy Scouts' "outspoken and horribly divisive theology," I guess that's a matter for the courts to decide. The Scouts are not a church-- no one can reasonably say they are, and I don't believe any court has so held -- and so it seems to me the Scouts cannot have a "theology." I understand from the webcast that the Scouts have actually subsidized the San Diego city property, rather than the other way around, and that the facilities the Scouts run there are open to numerous youth organizations, perhaps all comers. I wonder whether the lawsuit, Barnes-Wallace v. City of San Diego, is really directed at correcting a perceived unconstitutional behavior by the City of San Diego, or at forcing the Boy Scouts to change?
The Barnes-Wallace case is before the infamously left-leaning U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. It is a fair bet that the Ninth Circuit will uphold the decision of Judge Napolean Jones. (Read Judge Jones' biographical summary here; he's a Clinton appointee.) The matter will very likely end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
All of which raises a very timely question: Does is matter who appoints federal judges? Yes, it does.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
John Podhoretz suggests that the deal is really just a smokescreen to give both sides (mainly Democrats) political cover and avoid the Consitutional option being forced on the Dems. OK, that's not exactly what Podhoretz says but that's the inescapable conclusion if he's right:
This deal is therefore effectively about the judges it mentions -- and about them only. Every future nomination will be decided as follows. If the Democrats insist that the next nominee(s) are bad enough to invoke the "extraordinary" right to filibuster, the Republicans have the right to say the Democrats are full of it, kill the deal and go to the nuclear option immediately.I hope so. As a legal eagle, I know that sometimes when both sides in a dispute have battled themselves into a corner and they both want out, they'll agree to fuzzy language in some kind of settlement agreement, declare victory, and move on. That may well be what McCain and Co. wanted to do here.
Why would they do that? Well, experienced negotiators go into discussions only when they know what they want to come out with. I believe McCain, as mercurial and self-absorbed as he is, had a goal: To get out of a box.
What box? As Hugh Hewitt suggested on his radio show today, McCain had taken a big and irreversible step by siding with the Democrats on a key issue. His future as a Republican was consequently in great doubt, and yet he couldn't back out without looking like a flip-flopper. He desperately needed to avoid the Senate rules confrontation the Republicans had threatened, because the GOP likely would have triumphed. Imagine McCain's position then: He sides with the Democrats who are obstructing judicial confirmation votes on qualified nominees-- a "red meat" issue for center-right Republicans (not "extremists;" McCain knows better than to call them that). Then he and the Democrats lose when push comes to shove. McCain's presidential ambitions are then toast.
So McCain engineers the "extraordinary circumstances" fuzz-over, and his little group gets to claim they resolved the impasse and still cry "foul" if the Democrats resort to filibustering any nominee who's not a certifiable wing-nut. To a lesser extent, Democrats Lieberman, Nelson, and perhaps others also can distance themselves from their fellow Democrats by claiming disagreement with the rest of their caucus on the "extraordinary circumstances" issue.
Assuming I'm right, my problem with this agreement is that it is utterly self-serving for the gang that assembled it, especially McCain. It's not in the best interests of the Constitution or any overly-treasured Senate comity. After all, the agreement recognizes filibustering of judicial nominees as a legitimate tactic. But it does save John McCain's hide, and I guess it does ingratiate Lindsey Graham with John McCain. (Hugh thinks Graham wants to run for VP on McCain's ticket. Good luck, boys!)
Profiles in Courage? No, more like Profiles in Egotism. But if this unnecessary, unprincipled compromise gets us where we need to go we can be happy about that, at least.
UPDATE: The comments to this post, below, are very much worth reading.
Abortion, affirmative action, gay marriage – all of these intensely controversial issues keep getting decided in the judicial branch, where there is no recourse or change, instead of the legislative branch, where lawmakers have to face the voters within a year or two. A bad legislative decision can be reversed by “throwing the bums out”; a bad judicial decision remains until enough septuagenarian Supreme Court justices die off.
The intensity with which the Democratic party has resisted letting the legislature decide these issues – even on topics like partial-birth abortion – could be interpreted as a full-scale concession on their part that they’ll never build a legislative majority for these positions.
So why, oh why, aren’t Republicans touting that early and often? Why aren’t they saying that their fight is to keep the nation’s most sensitive and hotly contested issues settled by those who are accountable to voters, rather than those appointed for life? With all this talk from Harry Reid and the Democrats about checks and balances and the ability of the minority to have a say, why aren’t Republicans emphasizing that this fight is exactly about that, making sure the voters still get to have the final say on these issues, and can adjust the course of the ship of state accordingly, rather than whatever international legal precedent Ruth Bader Ginsberg feels is appropriate today? Should the final word on the most important political issues be decided by whether or not Sandra Day O’Connor is in a bad mood from getting cut off in traffic on her way to work that morning?
(Emphasis added.) This message is a winner, I think, but our side still lost this important battle. How did we cede the high ground on this to those who actually occupy the low ground?
Monday, May 23, 2005
The Judicial Confirmation Deal: A (Sort of) Optimistic Analysis
A sadly appropriate image for this morning.
I agree with most observers (examples here and here) that this is a bad deal. Parts of it simply stink. Others are merely irritating. But I still see some hope that Bush's decisive re-election will yet result in the seating of the kind of judges that most Americans want to see on the appellate bench.
Here's the Memorandum of Understanding with my occasionally hopeful comments interlineated:
MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING ON JUDICIAL NOMINATIONSWho signed this thing? According to The Hill:
We respect the diligent, conscientious efforts, to date, rendered to the Senate by Majority Leader Frist and Democratic Leader Reid. [The signatories fail to mention this unspoken truth: Despite their professed respect for their leaders, they have cut them both off at the knees. Well, in truth Reid is cut off only at the ankles, Frist up near the hip. What a slam this is by these egotistical GOP Senators. I suspect they will not be asking many favors from their leadership soon. But why should McCain care about that? This gambit was the commencement of his campaign for president. Poor man-- he still thinks voters will rally to a squishy centrist.] This memorandum confirms an understanding among the signatories, based upon mutual trust and confidence, related to pending and future judicial nominations in the 109th Congress.
This memorandum is in two parts. Part I relates to the currently pending judicial nominees; Part II relates to subsequent individual nominations to be made by the President and to be acted upon by the Senate’s Judiciary Committee.
We have agreed to the following:
Part I: Commitments on Pending Judicial Nominations
A. Votes for Certain Nominees. We will vote to invoke cloture on the following judicial nominees: Janice Rogers Brown (D.C. Circuit), William Pryor (11th Circuit), and Priscilla Owen (5th Circuit). [This is good news. Brown and Owens are now much immunized against attack if nominated to the Supreme Court.]
B. Status of Other Nominees. Signatories make no commitment to vote for or against cloture on the following judicial nominees: William Myers (9th Circuit) and Henry Saad (6th Circuit). [These poor guys are probably dead as nominees.]
Part II: Commitments for Future Nominations
A. Future Nominations. Signatories will exercise their responsibilities under the Advice and Consent Clause of the United States Constitution in good faith. Nominees should only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances, and each signatory must use his or her own discretion and judgment in determining whether such circumstances exist. [Many have decried this provision, especially the vague "extraordinary circumstances" language. I like that language precisely because it is vague. Whatever else it might mean, I think it Democrats of conscience are now free to disagree with their leadership about what is "extraordinary." I know, I know-- maybe I am seeing a silver lining that does not exist. But I could be right! Will Joe Lieberman, Ken Salazar, and Ben Nelson -- who is from a very "red" state-- stand by and let a qualified nominee to the Supreme Court be filibustered? Maybe; maybe not.]
B. Rules Changes. In light of the spirit and continuing commitments made in this agreement, we commit to oppose the rules changes in the 109th Congress, which we understand to be any amendment to or interpretation of the Rules of the Senate that would force a vote on a judicial nomination by means other than unanimous consent or Rule XXII. [Thus dies the Constitutional option. This is the big prize the Dems wanted; the largesse of the seven Republicans who gave it to them should not be forgotten by the rest of us-- ever.]
We believe that, under Article II, Section 2, of the United States Constitution, the word “Advice” speaks to consultation between the Senate and the President with regard to the use of the President’s power to make nominations. We encourage the Executive branch of government to consult with members of the Senate, both Democratic and Republican, prior to submitting a judicial nomination to the Senate for consideration. [I know of no authority whatsoever for the startling proposition that the Executive needs to consult with the Senate before submitting a nomination. Also, the plain meaning of the Constitution's text won't allow such an interpretation, as this observer at Confirm Them points out.]
Such a return to the early practices of our government may well serve to reduce the rancor that unfortunately accompanies the advice and consent process in the Senate. [This sentence bothers me more than any other in the document. There would be no "return" because there is no early practice to return to!]
We firmly believe this agreement is consistent with the traditions of the United States Senate that we as Senators seek to uphold. [Well, that's nice.]
Republicans signing the agreement were Sens. Mike DeWine (Ohio), Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Lincoln Chafee (R.I.), McCain, John Warner (Va.), and Olympia Snowe (Maine).
Democrats signing were Sens. Nelson, Mark Pryor (Ark.), Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Joe Lieberman (Conn.), Mary Landrieu (La.), and Ken Salazar (Colo.).
Paul Mirengoff and John Hinderaker of Power Line are much less sanguine than even I am:
[Paul:] Senator Graham and his friends have likely given away one of the president's most important powers -- the power to nominate Supreme Court Justices of his choosing and get an up-or-down vote on them. I hope they enjoy the praise they are about to get from the Washington Post and the New York Times.
JOHN adds: [Sections II(A) and (B) contain] the key language. It is absolutely sickening. It promises the Democrats that the Republicans will not stop the filibuster during this Congress. It recognizes the filibuster of judges as a legitimate tool. And it blames President Bush for the Democrats' obstructionism. I've seen worse documents, I suppose, but it's hard to think of one offhand ....
By the way, about those seven Republicans:
- Shame on them for undermining the President this way.
- Shame on them for their outsize egos-- especially Senator McCain, who I still believe is a better man than he has shown himself to be in this case.
- How did a solid Republican state like South Carolina elect a squishy senator like Lindsey Graham?
- I will now give to individual senators' campaigns but never to the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. I can't stand the thought that any of my money might end up helping any of the seven dilettantes.
This is not a news blog, but I just got this e-mail alert from the Wall Street Journal Online, so what the heck:
Centrists from both parties reached a compromise Monday night to avoid a
showdown on President Bush's stalled judicial nominees and the Senate's own filibuster rules, officials from both parties said.
These officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the agreement would clear the way for yes or no votes on some of Bush's nominees, but make no guarantee.
Under the agreement, Democrats would pledge not to filibuster any of Bush's future appeals court or Supreme Court nominees except in "extraordinary circumstances."
For their part, Republicans agreed not to support an attempt to strip Democrats of their right to block votes.
We'll see where this goes.
Power Line posts Senator Frist's speech on the Senate floor today. It's a terrific argument; I hope it gets past the news media filters to the public.
Tired? Frazzled? Had a tough day? Fed up with the recent idealizing of the Knights Templar, the Da Vinci code, and similar nonsense? Then have a laugh break. Go here and remind yourself of the brilliance of a group with something less than reverence for those old heroic tales of gallant men.
In my post below (which links to other related posts) I referred to the Federalist Society webcast on May 18. The link to an archived version of that webcast is now here. A transcript will be available later this week, and I will post that link as soon as I get it.
Just as a reminder, the panel's subject was "The Constitution and the Boy Scouts: Equal Access to Government Land and the First Amendment," and panelists included these individuals:
- Professor Alan Brownstein, University of California Davis School of Law
- George Davidson, Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP
- Professor John Eastman, Chapman University School of Law
- Eric Isaacson, Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins
- Dean Kenneth Starr, Pepperdine University School of Law
- Dean Daniel Rodriguez, University of San Diego Law School (moderator)
Why do I keep talking about this subject, and why do I recommend this panel discussion so highly? Because it is in many ways a true microcosm of larger debates raging in American society:
- What values will we promote as ideals?
- Does the government have any role in such promotion?
- What about the courts? Why does it matter if presidents get to appoint judges with a particular judicial philosophy?
- Where does the so-called "separation of church and state" fit into this discussion?
In other words, it's not just about the Boy Scouts. It's about our culture wars generally.
Saturday, May 21, 2005
Saturday Morning Musings
"The Religious Right" and its attackers: I am fiercely Christian, although in the minds of some I may not meet the widely accepted definition of an "evangelical Christian." (To those same folks, there are points of doctrine that separate my co-religionists and me from that definition. This is a subject of considerable controversy, best left for another time.) Also, I often wince at the strident manner in which some of the more prominent evangelicals approach matters that are in the public eye.
Even so, when it comes to what public policy ought to be and which direction American culture ought to be headed, my world view is nearly indistinguishable from that of, say, Hugh Hewitt or Richard Neuhas or Pope Benedict VI or Donald Sensing or Al Mohler.
I generally am very sensitive about attacks on religions. An example of the kind of trashing that I find so offensive shows up in Power Line today. It's only a recent chapter in the long history of intellectual dishonesty and outright deception by many on the Left who should know better.
Eject! Eject! Eject! Thanks to John Gillmartin of Sheep's Crib, I was alerted to this post at Eject! Eject! Eject!. It's long but wonderful. Read it; you will not be wasting your time. An excerpt:
Now to hear some fellers tell it, the entire idea of “Unlawful Combatants” came to Sith mastermind Darth Rover in a vision, and he instructed his familiars Chimpy McBushitler and Torture Master Rumsfeld to use it as an excuse to begin the unjustified savagery that is such an essential part of the American character.
Absent from this worldview is…well…just about everything. . . .
Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing, please.
Speaking of Sheep's Crib, here's a post expressing a point I haven't seen made often enough in the last few days as the MSM engages in ritual hand-wringing over Saddam Hussein being photographed in his BVD's.
Friday, May 20, 2005
My post below about the panel debate in San Diego brought this response from Eric Isaacson, one of the panel members and presumably an attorney representing the ACLU in the legal wrangling that is the subject of the panel. For some reason I cannot get Mr. Isaacson's comment to open in the comments section below the post, but I did receive the comment separately by e-mail, so I am posting it here for review.
UPDATE: The link to the archived webcast is here, if you'd like to watch it. If you're interested in these issues at all I highly recommend watching.
Mr. Isaacson does not mention in his comment that he was one of the panelists in the May 18 discussion of the San Diego controversy. Here's the entire panel:
- Professor Alan Brownstein, University of California Davis School of Law
- George Davidson, Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP
- Professor John Eastman, Chapman University School of Law
- Eric Isaacson, Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins
- Dean Kenneth Starr, Pepperdine University School of Law
- Dean Daniel Rodriguez, University of San Diego Law School (moderator)
The web site of Mr. Isaacson's law firm states here that he is experienced in pro bono (public interest) litigation. His firm's biographical summary for him is here.
Enough background. I am delighted that Mr. Isaacson took the time to respond. These are issues that need debate and full exposure. I hope to be posting more about this, but I want my posts to be as informative as possible.
In that spirit, here is Mr. Isaacson's comment:
The BSA operates its headquarters for a region covering nearly 9,000 miles of Southern California from the City of San Diego's Balboa Park - - paying oneThis is a truly fascinating set of statements. I will admit that I could not listen to the May 18 web cast in which Mr. Isaacson participated, and I am no expert on the facts of the San Diego controversy. Thanks to Mr. Isaacson, I do intend to learn a lot more.
dollar a year rent for facilities where it employs twenty or thirty people to do the BSA's organizational business. Membership forms downloaded from these regional headquarters - - operated from offices owned by the City - - carry a Declaration of Religious Principle announcing that anyone who does not share the BSA leadership's theology about "duty to God" is incapable of becoming "the best kind of citizen." That theology led the BSA to ban a major denomination from its Religious Relations Committee in 1992, and to throw the denomination out of the BSA's Religious Awards program in 1998, because the denomination preached against discrimination, shunning, and exclusion. From Balboa Park, the BSA issues orders enforcing rules that those who do not share the its theology shall be shunned -- along with homosexuals who are ostracized on the basis that they are "not clean." The City of San Diego has, moreover, posted signs around the BSA's regional headquarters announcing that the City stands behind these policies, explaining that all this is a "joint operation" of the BSA and local government: "This property is owned by the City of San Diego and is being utilized for the benefit of general public through the joint operation of the city and the Boy Scouts of America." Now, it's true that the Boy Scouts are entitled to discriminate on the basis of religion, if they wish, and to ostracize others as spiritually "unclean" and as social inferiors - - or, "not the best kind of citizen," as BSA puts it. But the City of San Diego, as a governmental body cannot sponsor or endorse such activity, which it clearly has done in San Diego, thereby violating both the state and federal constitutions.
For now, however, I can make the following responses to Mr. Isaacson's comment:
1. ". . . anyone who does not share the BSA leadership's theology about 'duty to God' is incapable of becoming 'the best kind of citizen.'"
It's interesting that Mr. Isaacson describes the BSA's position as a "theology," since the BSA is not a church. This sounds like a mere polemic to me. Also, I cannot find the downloaded membership forms he refers to, but I will; I suspect there is a good counter-argument here.
2. "That theology led the BSA to ban a major denomination from its Religious Relations Committee in 1992, and to throw the denomination out of the BSA's Religious Awards program in 1998, because the denomination preached against discrimination, shunning, and exclusion."
It would be interesting to know what "major denomination" was involved and what it did to get itself excluded in this manner. I have a hunch it was not merely expressing polite disagreement.
UPDATE: The donomination was the Unitarian Univeralist Church. I still don't know what they did to get dismissed from any sort of BSA affiliation, if indeed that occurred.
3. "From Balboa Park, the BSA issues orders enforcing rules that those who do not share ... its s theology shall be shunned -- along with homosexuals who are ostracized on the basis that they are 'not clean.'"
I have been in Scouting a long time and have never seen "shunning" or "ostracizing." Both are contrary to core Scouting principles. In fact, sexual orientation simply does not come up, in my experience, unless someone makes an issue of it. Nowhere in any BSA literature I have ever seen any group, let alone homosexuals, pronounced "not clean."
4. ". . . it's true that the Boy Scouts are entitled to discriminate on the basis of religion, if they wish, and to ostracize others as spiritually 'unclean' and as social inferiors - - or, 'not the best kind of citizen,' as BSA puts it."
I would be interested in seeing any BSA statement calling anyone "spiritually unclean" or "social inferiors." I'd also like to know the context of the "not the best kind of citizen" statement attributed to the BSA.
There will be more about this here. Stay tuned! And thanks again to Mr. Isaacson for his comment. Again, civil discussion of these issues is welcome and terribly important.
Read this op-ed piece from Opinion Journal by Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Saudi Institute in Washington. You may start to wonder.
Read it all. Here's an excerpt:
As a Muslim, I am able to purchase copies of the Quran in any bookstore in
any American city, and study its contents in countless American universities.
American museums spend millions to exhibit and celebrate Muslim arts and
heritage. On the other hand, my Christian and other non-Muslim brothers and
sisters in Saudi Arabia--where I come from--are not even allowed to own a copy
of their holy books. Indeed, the Saudi government desecrates and burns Bibles
that its security forces confiscate at immigration points into the kingdom or
during raids on Christian expatriates worshiping privately.
Muslims of good will need to engage constructively with the West on these issues, and soon.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
His bottom line:
In my ears, "insurgent" is a bit like "rebel" or even "revolutionary." There's nothing axiomatically pejorative about it, and some passages of history have made it a term of honor. At a minimum, though, it must mean "rising up." These fascists and hirelings are not rising up, they are stamping back down. It's time for respectable outlets to drop the word, to call things by their right names (Baathist or Bin Ladenist or jihadist would all do in this case), and to stop inventing mysteries where none exist.You are respectfully urged to read the whole thing.
(Thanks to Honorary Hedgehog and occasional guest blogger Ralph Kostant for the tip.)
Yes, Newsweak Fouled Up; But Where Does Blame for The Afghanistan Riot Really Lie?
Yes, yes, yes.
. . . with David Brooks, Jeff Jacoby and Tom Friedman all on the same page here, perhaps the press will begin to recognize that this isn't Vietnam redux, but an entirely different sort of war. One in which, I should note, the enemy counts on journalists to be sloppy, biased, and willing to excuse or ignore Islamist extremism in the service of domestic politics.
Tom Wolfe, who chronicled Ken Kesey’s riotous, hallucenigenic trip across country in a painted school bus in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test wrote in that American classic “It’s easy to have faith as long as it goes along with what you already know.”It seems to me that anyone who can come up with a word like Crapperquiddick deserves our attention. Read the whole thing; you'll end up blogrolling this man.
I can’t think of a better explanation for the cognitive dissonance shown by the mainstream press since “Crapperquiddick” hit the fan this past weekend. Because make no mistake: The very same people in the press who took CBS to task last fall for their “fake but accurate” defense of the Bush TANG memos have elevated that apologia so that it’s now considered a legitimate way to report the news.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Today we have the story of Marine PFC Arthur Jackson, who was exactly one month short of his 20th birthday when these events took place. I chose this citation at random. No other approach to selection seems possible; there are so many stories that are equally amazing and humbling.
JACKSON, ARTHUR J.
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps, 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division. Place and date: Island of Peleliu in the Palau group, 18 September 1944. Entered service at: Oregon. Born: 18 October 1924, Cleveland Ohio. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on the Island of Peleliu in the Palau group, 18 September 1944. Boldly taking the initiative when his platoon's left flank advance was held up by the fire of Japanese troops concealed in strongly fortified positions, Pfc. Jackson unhesitatingly proceeded forward of our lines and, courageously defying the heavy barrages, charged a large pillbox housing approximately 35 enemy soldiers. Pouring his automatic fire into the opening of the fixed installation to trap the occupying troops, he hurled white phosphorus grenades and explosive charges brought up by a fellow marine, demolishing the pillbox and killing all of the enemy. Advancing alone under the continuous fire from other hostile emplacements, he employed similar means to smash 2 smaller positions in the immediate vicinity. Determined to crush the entire pocket of resistance although harassed on all sides by the shattering blasts of Japanese weapons and covered only by small rifle parties, he stormed 1 gun position after another, dealing death and destruction to the savagely fighting enemy in his inexorable drive against the remaining defenses, and succeeded in wiping out a total of 12 pillboxes and 50 Japanese soldiers. Stouthearted and indomitable despite the terrific odds. Pfc. Jackson resolutely maintained control of the platoon's left flank movement throughout his valiant 1-man assault and, by his cool decision and relentless fighting spirit during a critical situation, contributed essentially to the complete annihilation of the enemy in the southern sector of the island. His gallant initiative and heroic conduct in the face of extreme peril reflect the highest credit upon Pfc. Jackson and the U.S. Naval Service.
Thanks to a lucky birthday and the tides of history, I never had to serve in uniform for the United States. When I was 19 years old, as Private Jackson was when he did these things, I had never even fired a gun. I am left to read stories like PFC Jackson's and wonder: How did he do that? Where do we get men like this?
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
For an interesting and somewhat nuanced Christian perspective on faith and politics, take a look at this post by Coleman Luck. It's on the long side for a blog post but worth the read.
Since the time I learned of the Newsweek error and its consequences, I have been asking myself: "OK, it looks like the story is false, but even if it were true, should such a desecration of the Koran result in a riot and the death of innocents?" That is one aspect of the matter that has been largely undiscussed. Sacred symbols of my faith are desecrated all the time (most recently on national TV), but no one in my church even thinks about rioting.
Dennis Prager, at last, is asking questions about this and making some judgments. After making some points about the news media's lack of responsibility in time of war, he notes:
It is quite remarkable that many Muslims believe that an American
interrogator flushing pages of the Koran is worthy of rioting, but all the torture, slaughter, terror and mass murder done by Muslims in the name of the Koran are unworthy of even a peaceful protest.
Nevertheless, one will have to search extensively for any editorials condemning these primitives in the Western press, let alone in the Muslim press. This is because moral expectations of Muslims are lower than those of other religious groups. Behavior that would be held in contempt if engaged in by Christians or Jews is not only not condemned, it is frequently "understood" when done by Muslims.
UPDATE: Cheat Seeking Missiles has additional good thoughts and links on this.
Jewish Extremists Strike Again!
From guest blogger Ralph Kostant:
Here is how the AP reported the story, “Israelis Foil Plot By Jewish Extremists”:
AP - Mon May 16, 6:20 PM ET
JERUSALEM - Three Jewish extremists planned to fire a missile into Islam's
third-holiest shrine in hopes of unleashing mayhem across the Middle East and
halting Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and part of the West
Bank this summer, police said Monday.
And here, from The Jerusalem Post, is (as Paul Harvey would say) the rest of the story:
But calling into question the strength of the police's case, however, all of the suspects have been released from custody, with the state attorney's office
deciding not to press charges against any of the suspects due to lack of evidence and the fact that they had second thoughts about their plot even before they were detained.
"Beyond the planning, it has not been proven that those involved in the case had enough time to carry out any crime, and it appears that the suspects repented and changed their minds even before their arrests," a Justice Ministry statement on the case read.
Let's see if that makes it into the L.A. Times tomorrow.
Ralph B. Kostant
Monday, May 16, 2005
The InstaPundit is all over this. In fact, he's uncharacteristically vociferous.
Kfar Drom: The First Jewish Settlement In Gaza
Frequent contributor and honorary Hedgehog Ralph Kostant shares the following:
Kfar Drom in Hebrew means southern village. The first Jewish settlement in Gaza bearing that name existed in Talmudic times (200-400 C.E.). In the 1930's, Jewish pioneers returned to settle and farm the area, and adopted the ancient name for their settlement. It was destroyed once by Arab rioters in the 1930's, but was refounded, only to be overrun by the Egyptian army in 1948. When Israel recaptured Gaza in the 1967 Six-Day War, Kfar Drom was re-established for a third time. Now it faces destruction once again, this time by the voluntary surrender of the territory by the Israeli government.
The so-called Green Line, the now sacrosanct 1967 borders hallowed by the U.S. State Department, the International Court of Justice and the European Union, are no more than the January 1949 cease-fire lines where valiant, outnumbered Jewish fighters stopped the Egyptian and Jordanian Armies bent on destruction of the newborn Jewish State of Israel. Kfar Drom is no more the legitimate territory of the non-existent State of Palestine than is Tel Aviv. In a Jerusalem Post article entitled "Sacrificial Phoenix", writer Sarah Honig discusses the tragic history of Kfar Drom and ponders what its apparent imminent demise portends for other Jewish villages that were overrun by the Arabs in the War of Independence, but were later recaptured and rebuilt.
The Boy Scouts and The San Diego Litigation: A Must-Attend Webcast for Anyone Who Cares About The Constitution
This Wednesday. May 18, at 12:30 p.m. Pacific time, a panel of leading contitutional scholars including Dean Kenneth Starr of Pepperdine University School of Law, and Prof. Vikram Amar of Hastings College of Law, will debate the Constitution, the Boy Scouts, and the question of the Scouts' access to public land. If you have a computer with a high-speed connection, you can watch the debate.
The link to the Scouts' page with information on the live web cam feed is here.
What's this about? The ACLU argues that leases of parkland to Boy Scouts by the City of San Diego are unconstitutional. The Boy Scouts argue, on the other hand, that it would be unconstitutional for the City to refuse to lease to the Boy Scouts when it has more than 100 leases to other non-profit groups on similar terms. (For more background on the San Diego case, please visit BSA's legal issues website, www.bsalegal.org.)
Here's how a BSA e-mail describes the discussion:
A panel of leading constitutional scholars, including Dean Kenneth Starr,Take the time to watch this debate or listen in. Tell your friends about it. Scouting needs friends, and the public generally needs a broader understanding of the Constitutional issues surrounding Scouting these days.
will debate "The Constitution and The Boy Scouts: Equal Access to Government Land and the First Amendment,” on Wednesday, May 18 from noon to 2 p.m. Pacific Time.
The public and the media are invited to attend the program or to watch and participate in the Internet. For those attending in person, lunch will be served free of charge.
The program is sponsored by the Federalist Society on Law and Public Policy and will be held at the Wyndham Hotel at Emerald Plaza 400 West Broadway, San Diego, CA, in the Crystal Ballroom. If you want to attend in person, you are asked to register for the event by calling (202) 822-8138 or by sending an email to email@example.com
Specific cases affecting the Boy Scouts will be discussed, as well as the constitutional rights of charities to have access to public forums and government property.
The 90-minute program will be webcast live from San Diego, California, the site of important litigation between the ACLU and Boy Scouts of America. A panel of leading constitutional scholars will debate the issues from both the pro-ACLU and pro-Boy Scout perspectives:
Professor Vikram Amar, University of California Hastings College of Law
Professor Alan Brownstein, University of California Davis School of Law
George Davidson, Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, BSA National Counsel
Professor John Eastman, Chapman University School of Law
Dean Kenneth Starr, Pepperdine University School of Law
Dean Daniel Rodriguez, University
of San Diego Law School (moderator)
The 90-minute webcast begins live promptly at 12:30 p.m. Pacific time (1:30 p.m. Mountain, 2:30 p.m. Central, 3:30 p.m. Eastern). You will be able to send questions to the panelists during the program. To access the webcast, open your browser and go to this URL: http://www.vcnetcast.com/fed. You will need high-speed Internet access and either Windows Media Player or RealPlayer.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
John Kerry makes his first response to the SwiftVets on - you guessed it! - "The Daily Show"
During the fall of the 2004 election campaign I was having a friendly lunch with some Democrat colleagues in my law firm. (Most of my colleagues are Democrats who find my conservative views quaint. For most of them I am probably the only reason they cannot say they don't know anyone who voted for Bush.) My meal companions began gushing about what a great TV show "The Daily Show" is, and I shrugged and stated that I never watch the Comedy Central fake newscast. This admission was met with incredulity.
"You never watch it? How can you follow this campaign and never watch 'The Daily Show?'"
"I don't like shows like that. I mean, I like satire -- you know that. I just don't like the sneering kind that John Stewart does. Besides, I think the show has a relentless liberal slant. Making fun of Bush all the time just isn't funny to me. Don't you ever get tired of that?"
"No, I don't," one of them giggled.
I decided to wade in. "I read a few days ago that some people use John Stewart as their primary source of news about the campaign," I said, somewhat derisively.
"Well, what's wrong with that? It's all a matter of where you think you'll find the truth." This from a partner in a law firm with fine academic credentials from the finest old Establishment universities in the USA. I was left uncharacteristically speechless.
Mr. Stewart has had a book out, called "America (The Book)," for some time now. In the May 4 edition of Opinion Journal, Harry Stein comments very persuasively on both the book and its perpetually smirking author. Here's a pointed excerpt:
Mr. Stewart's profound cynicism about
as a bastion of freedom and democracy is at the core of " America (The Book)." For all the genuine laughs, notes Megan Basham on National Review Online, the book makes abundantly clear "what a knuckle-dragging Philistine you are if you reflect on America the Beautiful with any sort of warm sentiment. . . . No aspect of our patriotic pride is too sacred to be sacrificed on the altar of irony." What's more, she continues, "If a conservative writing team ever penned a joke about a Democratic black leader like the one made by Mr. Stewart's team about Clarence Thomas (a mocking classroom activity in the book instructs children, 'Using felt and yarn, make a hand puppet of Clarence Thomas. Ta-da! You're Antonin Scalia!'), there would be p.r. hell to pay." America
It speaks volumes about contemporary liberalism that in "progressive" circles, such stuff passes for brilliant satire.
I can assure you that except for me, my lunch group from last fall would have laughed uproariously at the Clarence Thomas joke.
Stein also offers some interesting insight into Stewart's success and the fawning reviews The Daily Show gets from the old elite news media:
There's no more striking example of how big a part ideology plays in the mainstream media's taste in comedy than its about-face on Mr. Stewart's fellow comedian Dennis Miller. Making his bones as one of
Chevy Chase's successors on "Saturday Night Live," Mr. Miller was long a media darling, praised like Mr. Stewart for inventiveness and daring, especially when he became host of his long-running HBO show, "Dennis Miller Live." As the New York Times' Caryn James wrote in 1996, Mr. Miller is "as scabrous and funny a political satirist as anyone around," given to "irreverent comments on the news."
That's when Mr. Miller was a man of the left. Then, after September 11, in a metamorphosis both startling and brave, given the world in which he made his living, Mr. Miller emerged as an outspoken defender of President Bush's foreign policy. Instantly, he became the skunk at the media party. In 2004, hosting a new show on CNBC, he found himself dismissed by the very same Caryn James as one of "the stand-up comics turned pontificating policy wonks." To her colleague Frank Rich, he was simply "formerly funny."
Jon Stewart is in no danger of such treatment anytime soon. . . .
Stein's piece is long and illuminating. Read the whole thing.
Saturday, May 14, 2005
Why Democrats Pay So Much Attention to Judicial Nominees' Philosophy
The question used to be whether nominees could put their personal beliefs aside, rather than what those personal beliefs were. Senate Democrats are now trying to change that healthy tradition, and it would be a change for the worse. But, it is perfectly understandable given that the Senate Democrats believe judges are entitled to legislate from the bench.It's good to understand what makes the opposition tick.
Friday, May 13, 2005
(The California legislature, which represents the 25% of the state's citizens who describe themselves as "liberal," is trying to overturn that ballot initiative, which passed in 98% of the counties in the state. But I digress.)
I think the decision is based on very questionable reasoning. (How's that for a restrained statement? I could have said it borders on being silly, but I'll hold off for now.) Eugene Volokh analyzes the decision here. I am persuaded that Volokh is right -- this decision will be overturned.
By the way, I encourage everyone to read Volokh's discussion of why Constitutional equal protection arguments are inapplicable to the gay marriage debate. Too many people throw around the words "equal protection" without really understanding the way courts use the concept in Constitutional law.
Some potentially important news: There's an immigration bill now pending, which seems to be based on President Bush's reform principles. I haven't read it yet, but both Senators McCain and Kennedy support it, which makes me apprehensive. Even so, some solid Republican congressmen, Jim Kolbe and Jeff Flake, are sponsors in the House. Kolbe's press release on the bill is here. The bill features a guest worker provision, which the hard-core anti-immigrationists will fight.
I'll be analyzing the bill over the weekend. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
The top right headline:
Committee withholds its recommendation after a Republican member rebukes Bush's choice for U.N. envoy. But confirmation is likely.
WASHINGTON — After weeks of bruising discord, a divided Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent President Bush's choice of John R. Bolton as U.N. ambassador to the full Senate on Thursday without endorsing him. A Republican majority in the Senate is expected to confirm him as early as next week.
Read the entire article; you'll see where the writer stands in this "news" piece. Oh, you'll see a brief quote by one of Bolton's supporters, but you'll have to read to the 16th paragraph. Most of the story is dedicated to breathless reporting on Republican Senator Voinivich's decision to vote to send the nomination to the floor without a recommendation. You will search the article in vain for any reference to this fact: Senator Voinovich never bothered to attend any session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at which Bolton testified.
The next one is right next to the Bolton article, and is by the ever-predictable Ronald Brownstein, who still misses Bill Clinton:
One Slim Win After Another for BushYou get the drift. Bush has little popular support and is simply winning time after time by narrow margins. How does he do it?
By Ronald Brownstein
Times Staff Writer
May 13, 2005
WASHINGTON — All the polarizing political dynamics of George W. Bush's presidency condensed into a single illuminating episode Thursday, as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to advance the nomination of John R. Bolton.
Like so many of Bush's initiatives, the nomination of the blustery Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations energized conservatives, outraged Democrats and squeezed moderates in both parties.
And, as he has many times before, Bush won the legislative fight by the narrowest of margins — maintaining just enough support from Ohio Sen. George V. Voinovich and other committee Republicans critical of Bolton to overcome uniform Democratic opposition and move the nomination to the Senate floor on a party-line vote.
The vote demonstrated again Bush's willingness to live on the political edge — to accept achingly narrow margins in Congress and at the ballot box to pursue ambitious changes that sharply divide the country.
The big photo on the front page, above the fold, is about the funeral of Miguel Contreras. I've never heard of Mr. Contreras, and I'll wager that 95% of the Times' readers had not either; but apparently he was considered an important Hispanic labor leader in L.A., and his untimely death at age 52 got him on the front page.
The standing room-only crowd, estimated at 4,500, included many of the most prominent politicians and labor leaders in the state and nation. From Congress came U.S. Reps. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Anaheim). From Sacramento, State Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres and Assemblyman Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles).Reads like a veritable pantheon of lefty pols and activists in Los Angeles, doesn't it? This is only the latest of several stories about Mr. Contreras' passing. One wonders whether a conservative behind-the-scenes political figure in L.A. would get the same coverage.
From Los Angeles, Mayor James K. Hahn, former Los Angeles Councilman Richard Alatorre and filmmaker-activist Rob Reiner mixed with all 15 members of the City Council and three of five county supervisors.
John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, came with his two top lieutenants, Richard Trumka and Linda Chavez-Thompson. Four national union presidents joined them: Andrew Stern of the 1.8-million-member Service Employees International Union, Bruce Raynor and John Wilhelm of the recently merged union Unite Here and Arturo Rodriguez of the United Farm Workers, who was a pallbearer.
Looking below the fold, here's what we find:
Really? Whose "concerns?" I had not heard anything about this prior to Mr. Vartabedian's story. The rest of his piece actually seems pretty straightforward, but it looks to me like a story about the justice system working well-- cracking down on corruption, prosecuting the offenders. It does not seem fair to me that the culmination of this successful three-year operation is "adding to concerns" about "public corruption north of the border." Looks to me like the bad guys got caught in this one.
Oh, well. Just another day with the L.A. Times, whose management seems to think its falling circulation is related to competition from the Internet, not to its lefty tabloid-style content.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Judicial Confirmation Filibustering: The Long And The Short of It
Hugh Hewitt, a tireless filibuster-fighter, pretty much sums up what the fight is all about. Dissecting a Washington Post article that appeared today, Hugh notes:
The article correctly reports that "the filibuster allows a minority in the Senate to block almost any legislation as long as it can muster at least 40
votes. It is considered one of the great institutional checks on the influence
of the majority party and sometimes the presidency," but fails to note
--anywhere in the article-- that prior to 2003 the filibuster
was never used against an appellate court nominee, and only once against a
Supreme Court nominee and in that instance, the 1968 nomination of Associate
Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas to become Chief Justice, the filibuster was
backed by members of both parties.
That's point number one: What the Democrats are doing now is unprecedented. Moreover, if they are succesful, it will mean that 60 Senate votes are now required to ensure a judge's confirmation, regardless of party. The Republicans will respond the same way when they are in the minority again, so judicial nominations have already been changed forever. And it was the Democrats who made the decision to use the filibuster in this way.
Point number two: What is being proposed is a simple change in the Senate rules. It's all politics and government in action. No one on the GOP side is trying to monkey around with the Constitution.
Consider: The president is elected by all the people and appoints judges with the "advice and consent of the Senate." The Senate, in its Constitutional role, must therefore consent before a judge can take his or her seat on the bench. The Senate also establishes its own rules for voting on matters that come before it. The Democrats are using those rules, which allow for filibusters, to block certain Bush nominees. The so-called "Consitutional option" is a recognized parliamentary maneuver by which the GOP would seek a ruling from the chair that would interpret Senate rules to mean that filibusters are inappropriate in the consideration of judicial nominees.
That's it. The Constitution is not in danger. Ted Kennedy and Chuck Schumer, who are braying that something terrible is happening, are simply behaving like the south end of a horse headed north and should simply shut up. But they won't, which is why the Constitutional option should be exercised.
Confirm Them continues to be the best spot around to keep up with this issue.
There's some more Hedgehog blogging on this subject here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
MORE: Hugh posts about an extremely informative debate he hosted on his show about Janice Rogers Brown, the California Supreme Court justice whom the Democrats are blocking. Go to Radioblogger.com for the transcript entitled "So Who Is Janice Rogers Brown Anyway?" I of course am biased, but I can't see that Erwin Chemerinsky has a leg to stand on, although he gets credit for a valiant effort in a losing cause.
FINALLY (I promise): Here's the president's statement on Priscilla Owen, which I think serves notice that the battle will soon be joined:
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary May 9, 2005
President's Statement on Judicial Nominations
Four years ago today, I nominated Justice Priscilla Owen and Judge Terry
Boyle to serve on the Federal courts of appeals. Four years later, neither has
received an up-or-down vote in the Senate. Both have been rated well-qualified
by the American Bar Association, the highest ABA rating a judicial nominee can
receive. Both have been waiting to fill vacancies that have been designated
judicial emergencies by the Judicial Conference of the United States. Much more
than enough time has passed for the Senate to consider these nominations. The Senate should give these extraordinarily qualified nominees the up-or-down votes they deserve without further delay.
It is only fair that the Senate promptly consider judicial nominees on the floor, discuss and debate their qualifications, and then vote to confirm or not to confirm them. Nominees who have the support of a majority of the Senate should be confirmed. Unfortunately, a minority of Senators is blocking the will of the Senate.
Over the course of the past four years, the blocking of judicial nominees in the Senate has escalated to an unprecedented level. Last Congress, ten of my appeals court nominees were filibustered. Each of these highly qualified nominees enjoyed the bipartisan support of a majority of Senators. Each would have been confirmed if given a simple up-or-down vote. Each deserved a simple up-or-down vote by the entire Senate.
I urge the Senate to put aside the partisan practices of the past and work together to ensure that all nominees are treated fairly and that all Americans receive timely justice in our Federal courts.