Friday, May 27, 2005

Is Paris Hilton the new Patty Hearst?

Today we have real terrorists who make the SLA look like amateurs, so playing terrorist has lost its chic. The new celebrity is porn.

Why mainstream media suck

1. They're offensive and dishonest and then defensive about it. They consider themselves above criticism, when criticizing others unfairly, even hypocritically, is their stock in trade.

2. They can't just report what's happening; they have to offer gratuitous advice to people they really don't want to succeed.

3. They create crises and then use them as arguments for changing policy. Then they get in a snit when people don't take them seriously.

Retire them but don't overrule them?

That right-wing, extremist, radical activist Jeff Jacoby points out that "The Supreme Court has become an immensely powerful institution, one that sets national policy on contentious issues from abortion to race to property rights." Duh.

He goes on to argue that the justices should not serve for life. I would prefer some way to limit their authority to overturn democratically enacted laws, but I'm not sure how to word it, or maybe we need an easier way to amend the Constitution, or some way to overrule Court decisions. I don't like the idea of limiting tenure, because it doesn't do much to get at the real problem, which is that the court has allowed itself to become a tool for achieving political results without having the votes. The court has become such a patsy for every kind of injustice argument that it has forgotten that it's only one branch of government and the least representative at that.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

We hope he ignores them.

So writes the WSJ Editorial Board about The Big Deal:
The fervent hope of these 14 is that President Bush will spare them from such controversy by nominating someone acceptable to the left--say, another David Souter. Their agreement therefore warns Mr. Bush that he is obliged "to consult with members of the Senate, both Democratic and Republican, prior to submitting a judicial nomination to the Senate for consideration."

We hope he ignores them. Mr. Bush is under no obligation to reward Senators who have mistreated his nominees in this fashion. He owes far more to the supporters who helped him win re-election and his party pick up five Southern Senate seats last year. To vet his nominees with this Gang of 14 is a virtual guarantee of judicial mediocrity--of a lowest-common-denominator choice or a philosophic cipher.
I'm still trying to figure out what the Republican signatories think they got from this.

There's been a lot of discussion about McCain, Frist and Hagel all want to run for president. McCain can forget it, unless he runs as a Democrat. Frist is hurt because he couldn't keep his troops in line. Hagel is left unscathed, but as Mark Steyn noted yesterday on Hugh Hewitt's radio show, senators make bad candidates for president. First, they don't have as much name recognition as they think they do. Second, legislators are not administrators. The jobs required different skill sets. Third, they tend to speak to the public the same way they do to other senators, in stentorian tones, full of platitudes and extremely boring and long-winded. The skills they hone in the Senate don't carry over to being a top executive. That's why Bob Dole and John Kerry were bad choices. There should be a rule in the parties that nobody who hasn't got experience as a governor should ever get beyond Iowa and New Hampshire. If Hagel wants to run for president, he should run for governor of Nebraska first.

David Broder, on the other hand, thinks McCain has established himself as the "the real leader" of the Senate. Huh? Well, it's because he spearheaded "[t]he Monday night agreement to avert a showdown vote over judicial filibusters [that] . . . spared the Senate from a potentially ruinous clash . . .." I wish he'd expanded on that "potentially ruinous clash" stuff, because I don't see it. The Democrats were threatening to shut down all Senate business, and people like Broder thought that would be bad, but I have to wonder if the Dems would have followed through, and I doubt it.

Broder also thinks that Bill Frist failed because he "was unable to negotiate a compromise with Minority Leader Harry Reid or hold his Republicans in line to clear the way for all of President Bush's nominees to be confirmed." Why? Because "McCain looks like the man who achieved his objectives. . . ."
"McCain took the harder road and helped organize the bipartisan effort that averted the looming crisis. He did that knowing he would incur the wrath of the conservative activists who want no barriers placed before their favorites for possible vacancies on the Supreme Court."
How does peeling off a couple of unsure senators from supporting the leader is a "harder road" than lining up 50? So McCain's going to take over the Republican party with 6 other senators? Good luck with that. McCain should get the Jeffords award. What's his principle in all this? Give in to blackmailers?

Broder goes on:
He did that knowing he would incur the wrath of the conservative activists who want no barriers placed before their favorites for possible vacancies on the Supreme Court.
How radical of these activists who helped win a majority for their (and putatively, McCain's) party to expect that their senators should support the main cause for which the voters elected them!

While I'm not one, what is wrong with being an activist? Is it better to be apathetic? Do we prefer "passivists?" Only in our opponents. When is "bipartisanship" a virtue? When it helps you get your way.

Update: McCain's ascendancy was shortlived. I hope he learned something about dealing with obstructionists, but I doubt it. It seemed as though the Democrats couldn't wait to show off how they'd made suckers of the Comity Seven. If you want to stop stuff like this, you have to play as a team and hope to persuade a few votes from the other side. The Democrats know that. The Republicans still have some slow learners.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

In favor of free speech

Eugene Volokh gives a careful and balanced opinion of the claims that the courts are above criticism.

Back to the basics

Timothy Noah, no conservative he, makes the case for ridding the Senate of the filibuster.

More on The Deal

T. A. Frank distills the deal:
Republicans will allow Democrats to keep the filibuster as long as Democrats never use it.
That's not how I would phrase it, but it's basically accurate. What I keep thinking is that this "deal" really doesn't say much except that the Republicans are horsetrading some nominees for others, and agreeing to postpone the final showdown until the Dems use a filibuster on a Supreme Court nominee. That suggests that they don't really believe Myers and Saad could be affirmed in the end, but I wonder what makes them think they should be entitled to make that decision to short circuit the confirmation process, any more than the Democrats should by blocking it. The only really fair thing is to give them a vote, and if they fail, they fail. Settling their fate in a backroom deal strikes me as politics at its lowest, not statesmanship.

Rule by lawyer-kings?

Lino Graglia on the Senate's battles over judicial nominees:
The battles in Congress over the appointment of even lower court federal judges reveal a recognition that federal judges are now, to a large extent, our real lawmakers. Proposals to amend the Constitution to remove lifetime tenure for Supreme Court justices, or to require that rulings of unconstitutionality be by more than a majority (5-4) vote, do not address the source of the problem. The Constitution is very difficult to amend--probably the most difficult of any supposedly democratic government. If opponents of rule by judges secure the political power to obtain an amendment, it should be one that addresses the problem at its source, which is that contemporary constitutional law has very little to do with the Constitution.. . .

The claim that the court's rulings of unconstitutionality are mandates of the Constitution, or anything more than policy preferences of a majority of the justices, is false.
Amen. The only thing I would add is to point out that responsibility for the current rancor and ugliness of confirmation battles should be laid at the foot of the courts themselves, who have made their decisions political, and themselves higher than democracy. When the stakes are this high, it's no wonder that the appointment process has gotten so vicious.

Read the whole thing.

Can this be real?

Nick Kristof seems to be praising blogs as a vehicle of democratization, in China. I wonder if he appreciates the irony.

Teaching Intelligent Design

The debate over teaching evolution in schools continues, but has morphed into an attack on any explanation for life on this planet, but one. I don't think that creationism needs to be taught in schools. I'd settle for an admission that there are still a lot of gaps in Darwinism, and that it is not fatuous to believe that the complexity of life forms we see around us implies a designer.

What offends me about aggressive defenders of blind evolution is that they are so intent on arguing that it disproves the existence of God. It makes me wonder if they would agree that the existence of The Origin of Species can be explained without believing that Darwin existed.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Patterico reprints the text of "The Deal" interspersed with explanations:
Doesn't that mean it's unenforceable?
We respect the diligent, conscientious efforts, to date, rendered to the Senate by Majority Leader Frist and Democratic Leader Reid. 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.
We've got COMITY, Baby! Gotta have comity!
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're not only going to sell out the presidents current nominees, but his future nominees, too.
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).
Myers and Saad will be left to twist in the wind.
B. Status of Other Nominees.
see above
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.
Business as usual. My party is acting in good faith. Yours is a bunch of demagogues. Therefore, we won't try to define "good faith." We'll wait until the President nominates someone to the Supreme Court and then we'll go through this circus again.
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.
Business as usual. Comity RULES!
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.
Enough Republicans have wimped out that we won't be able to follow the Constitution and give our advice and consent.
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.
The President should take this heat, not US! We've wimped 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.
Why won't the president cover our rear ends for us? We're senators, not leaders. We shouldn't have to be embarrassed by wimping out at the last second. We're pretty sure that the Democrats will soon be back in the majority, and we don't want them to hurt us when they are. We have to give them what they want or we won't have comity.
We firmly believe this agreement is consistent with the traditions of the United States Senate that we as Senators seek to uphold.
We're not really wimps. Quit calling us wimps!

It's true that this could still work out well for conservatives, if the president is willing to withdraw Myers and Saad. But why should he? This is a game of chicken and the Republicans lost their nerve, or just didn't have it to begin with. Now they'll have a lot of people in their national base mad, but they're counting on being able to hold their seats in "moderate" states. So long, Senator McCain. The best they can do now is to go back to overruling the filibuster when the Democrats decide that they just have to block the next nominee from getting a vote. They've wimped out, and what have they gotten for it? Oh, yeah--comity. Right.

A stupid deal

Like a lot of compromises, the one on judicial nominees seems to have been made purposely ambiguous. It allows Republican Senators to pull the trigger if they determine that a Democrat filibuster is not justified by "extraordinary circumstances." Of course, what constitutes "extraordinary circumstances" will differ with one's own re-election prospects.

What have they gained except more recriminations, vituperation, lies and accusations? They've given the Democrats more time to work with the media to misrepresent the issue, mislead the public and try to radicalize the independent democrats who will vote to approve Bush's nominees.

According to Katherine Lopez at NRO, the public doesn't care about this. I hope that's not true.

What would John Wayne do?

I'm getting pretty tired of all the talk about the "Nuclear Option." The real ultimate weapon is the filibuster itself, not doing away with it. All this drivel about the filibuster being part of the Constitution and a sacred institution is offensive demagoguery. And the phrase "minority rights" is being massively misapplied. The rule in a democracy is that the majority rules unless it is trying to deprive people of rights for some impermissable, invidious reason, such as their race. But minority parties don't have a right to get their own way.

The compromise isn't all that clear. The AP reports:
[T]he 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.
What the (bleep) does THAT mean? By the right to block votes, do they mean "filibuster"? If so, Republicans have been betrayed by some of their own senators. The only reason I can think of to protect the filibuster is that you're planning on being in the minority yourself again pretty soon. The Republican senators who have sided with the Democrats have guaranteed their own defeat in the future, so their fears have become self-fulfilling.

Apparently the Republicans have conceded two judges, Myers and Saad. Myers is offensive to environmentalists because he has publicly expressed contempt for the movement. Saad is being targeted because Michigan senators want payback for Republicans blocking a judge they wanted when Clinton was president.

It may be that these two wouldn't get approved anyway, but not for any reasons I can see except waffling by Republicans and Democrats who previously supported them.

Filibusters are anti-democratic. Their history as a tool to block civil rights legislation should make them odious to every American. The only good case for one was the one in Mr. Smith, and that was only to stop something that was dishonest and abusive. These are being used to prevent the winners of the last election from doing what they were elected to do. They evince a cynicism about the roles of representative offfices that I find repellent.

Endorsement for my theory about J-schools

John Leo on media's anti-military bias:
Most media hiring today is from universities where a military career is regarded as bizarre and almost any exercise of American power is considered wrongheaded or evil.
That's where all the notions come from about journalists representing the people's right to know and holding power accountable, instead of just reporting stories objectively and accurately. It's hard to have diversity when there are so few conservatives coming out of journalism schools.

I wonder if Dan Rather's swandive/belly flop will inspire a lot of young conservatives to go into journalism the way Nixon's did. I doubt it. Who would want to go into a dying industry? I think journalism will survive, but not the way it's being practiced today.

Be sure to read Leo's column. He says it so well:
Much of what journalists turn out is very good. But when they omit or mess up stories, run badly skewed polls, or publish disgraceful front-page editorials posing as news stories, nobody seems to notice because groupthink is so strong.

Time is running out on the newsroom monoculture. The public has many options now—as well as plenty of media watchdogs, both professional and amateur.
All you have to do is read a few MSM stories about bloggers to see that groupthink in action.

Update: Roger L. Simon has similar points about political correctness spreads through the education establishment. Once you no longer recognize the difference between opinions and conclusions from facts, you're not are so much an educator as an indoctrinator.

"once there was a fleeting wisp of glory"

Dan Rather:
CBS News has a culture, has a history that those of us who work here, it's very real -- that we see it as a sort of magical mystical kingdom of journalistic knights.. . .And I know I can mentally hear people rolling their eyes. That's the way we feel.
Great imagery, Dan, CBS as Camelot

I guess that would make Dan Rather Mordred.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Vizini strategy

Pejman Yousefzadeh and Mickey Kaus think that the Democrats may vote for a cloture motion in the Priscilla Owens nomination in order to sidestep a vote on the filibuster until some later point, when a nominee for the Supreme Court comes before it. Something about this strikes me as the kind of cleverness exhibited by Vizini, Wallace Shawn's character in the iocane powder scene of The Princess Bride. If they want to hold off the showdown, all they have to do is drop the filibuster on Appeals Court nominees. I don't think they dare to back down on some of these nominees, because their big donor groups expect them to fall on their swords over them, and Republican small donors would be upset if Frist, et al. compromise on this issue. They would rather see them go to the mat.

When "hate crime" is justified

Apparently, Robert Fisk's neurotic need to excuse Muslims for violence against Westerners is not limited to himself. Isn't this just an updated version of Kipling's "The White Man's Burden"? By some twisted logic we do penance for Western colonialism by inviting its victims to our countries and excuse them when they behave like ignorant "wogs."