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Saturday, July 09, 2005

My Birthday Party

I'm celebrating my birthday next week, and extending an open invitation to my readers ... specifically those who are prepared to make contributions from $1,000 to $10,000. That's completely made up. My birthday isn't any time soon, and my rates wouldn't be quite that high. My inspiration for this little ruse is New York Rep. Charles Rangel, who has written to lobbyists representing corporate interests before the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, where he is the ranking Democrat, asking for contributions from $1,000 to $10,000 "to underwrite" his 75th birthday party. "I would like to be able to list your name on the invitation," Rangel said in his solicitation. He admonished the lobbyists to "fax the attached response sheet back to my office as soon as possible."

Islam Calling Ghandi

Charles Moore asks: Where is the Gandhi of Islam? It’s a very good question. For sure, Gandhi’s not among the Muslim demogogues now offering perfunctory condolences for the victims and condemnations of the criminals, before adding: "Blair and Bush should never have set these events in motion…" As for Gandhi the man, his Indian consciousness was deeply imbued with respect for the Western idea of the individual, hardly an artifact of India at the time. A friend emails:
"What’s the deal with these peace-loving Muslims? Are they incapable of rooting out the bad apples from their own communities? I’d like to see some Muslim exercise good faith by turning in the terrorists that enjoy safe haven in these communities."
Now that would be a profile in courage.

Clever New Strategy to Keep the Supreme Court Liberal

A new strategy is emerging among activists who, pretending to be non-activists, hope to frustrate President Bush's pledge to select judges who interpret the law rather than create it. The strategy aims to undercut conservative criticism of "activist judges" by redefining the phrase to make conservatives the worst offenders. The plan was revealed in a New York Times op-ed piece ("So Who Are the Activists?") cowritten by Yale Law School Paul Gewritz and recent Yale Law grad Chad Golder. Both men are motivated by a desire to be fair. We know this because they tell us ... a lot. They say they dislike how both sides tend to use the phrase "activist" to refer to judicial decisions with which they disagree. In hopes of busting this deplorable partisan logjam, the writers have identified a "reasonably objective and quantifiable measure of a judge's activism." Here's the question Gewirtz and Golder asked of justice's voting records: "How often has each justice voted to strike down a law passed by Congress." This is a good test, they say, because it's hard to get more "activist" than to dismiss the handiwork of Congress with a brusque "No way." Turns out that the justices most inclined to do so are, in this order: Thomas, Kennedy, Scalia, Rennquist. Least likely to strike down legislation: Breyer, Ginsburg, Stevens. Being fair, the writers make clear that there's nothing necessarily wrong with striking down laws passed by Congress — sometimes those laws just happen to be unconstitutional. It's at this point that the writers' being above the fray begins to look a lot like advocacy, not to be confused with activism, which they oppose, which they have told us so at the very beginning, and with a degree of insistence that makes it hard not to wonder, "What are these guys trying to conceal?" A closer look at their definitions is revealing. For instance: What is at the very heart of a judge striking down a piece of legislation? Nothing less than a decision to "actually intervene in the democratic work of Congress." Interestingly, the writers don't simply say "intervene." Nope: judges who overturn legislation actually intervene — how dare they! And not just in the work of Congress, but in its democratic work. The clear implication is that the work of the non-congressional branches isn't democratic, an idea that surpasses ordinary nonsense. Elected presidents make judicial nominations that are acted on by senators who are likewise elected. Sitting Supreme Court justices make decisions based on majority rule, another characteristic of democracy. So here's the central (if covert) bias of the men from New Haven: Congressional legislation is a good thing. And what's the characteristic focus of congressional legislation? To advance federal purview over an area of private life which previously was not subject to federal purview. Surprise: turns out the most liberal members of the court don't strike down congressional legislation as often as conservative members do! Steven Breyer, who once staffed for Sen. Ted Kennedy, apparently rather likes an in-charge federal government. Well, bowl me over. Gewirtz and Golder clearly need a broader way to think about activism, beginning with a necessary distinction between activism of the Breyer-Stevens kind, which seeks to expand the power of government, and activism of the Scalia-Thomas kind, which attempts to defend the Constitution from those who seek unbridled power. This is a distinction that makes a difference, and the fact that it doesn't enter into the writers' deliberations leads one to suspect their less nuanced definition of activism serves a larger goal — perhaps to take discussion of "activism" off the political table altogether in the months to come. Here's the broader (if unstated) conclusion the writers want readers to entertain: "Judicial activism? No big whoop. Guess what: conservatives are worst of all. But, hey: both liberal and judicial court members just insert their own disguised political thinking, anyhow. So why not back those nominees whose political views are closest to your own, and why not oppose nominees whose political views most differ from yours?" What's most false about this reasoning is that judicial activism and limited government aren't intrinsically at odds. A principled originalist ("What would the Framers do?") doesn't hesitate to overturn past decisions that represent nothing more than naked legislating from the bench on subjects that have no constitutional grounding. This isn't to say an originalist will overturn precedent lightly or with relish; to the contrary, he or she despairs at the damage done by past judicial decisions that reflect so little respect for original intent. Here's the key point: an originalist/constructivist knows it is never too late to get back to the actual (rather than ideologically imposed) meanings of the magnificent document framed in 1787. Roe v. Wade? Originalists say abortion should never have been removed from the political realm. The word "privacy" never appears in the Constitution. By sending abortion back to the states, federalists (even pro-choice ones) are confident the people can decide. But isn't that "activism"? Yes, of a sort — and altogether different from the activism which beholds a "living, breathing Constitution" that, um, reads the findings of foreign courts to meet, er, evolving needs. Actually, the Founders (parochial though they were then; dead, white, male though they be now) provided nicely for evolving needs. They provided a process by which the Constitution can be amended. In this sense, process and principle coincide. And here's the really interesting thing. Deciding whether or not to amend the Constitution is the job of legislators. You know: the real ones, who get elected. Kudos to the boys at Yale for coming up with such a clever way to say what Sen. Harry Reid said in his radio speech today: Bush should pick a nominee in the Earl Warren mold. The chances of that happening are currently about as good as Jerry Springer getting tapped for the gig. Meanwhile, check out an excellent article in the latest issue of Reason magazine, laying out "the libertarian case for judicial activism."

"We're Not Afraid"

A great new Web site with a mission: to "show the world that we're not afraid of what happened in London, and that the world is a better place without fear." It's a photo gallery of folks lending their images to a post-London world of courage, resolve, and forward-looking clarity. This is a world whose moral power the medievalist murderers simply do not understand. Check out the images, then send one of your own. (I plan to myself, when I can figure out why my cell phone camera has stopped deciding to send pictures to my computer...)

Friday, July 08, 2005

Growing Left Consensus: “Defending Against Terror Causes Terror; the West is to Blame”

Here’s a quick look at how the left is shaping up rhetorically in the wake of 7/7. Main theme: The U.S. bears significant if not primary responsibility for the London bombings because American efforts against terror in Afghanistan and Iraq are “fueling” terrorism. Bring the troops home now.
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Thursday, July 07, 2005

Choosing the Right Revolution

"The Revolutionaries of 1776 clearly understood the integral relationship between individual consciousness and the nature of democracy, which depends upon free thinking moral agents with the capacity for the rational and moral renewal of self and society. So it seems altogether fitting that America last weekend again celebrated the continuing vitality of these ideas with fireworks filling the sky with explosions of light and sound. For, the fireball that originated the universe gave way to the first generation of stars, and eventually to our ancestors who first stood of two limbs; later using their hands to shape tools, soon thereafter to unleashing the Sun’s energy stored in sticks in the form of fire used to advance new projects; eventually giving voice and vote to a form of self-governance which depends on the consent of the governed while also providing for the equal protection of each citizen. "How amazing is that?" —from my latest article, at Front Page Magazine

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Andrew Sullivan - Post Script

Sullivan just posted this thoughtful e-mail from a reader who likewise is perplexed by Andrew's comments.
"Calm down, there, tiger. I'm no fan of Santorum, but what exactly is so wrong with those excerpts you linked to? They are certainly not worthy of the mullah comparison. "Are children better off when one parent stays home to raise them, as opposed to a daycare provider? I'd be surprised if you believed that they are not. Is the feminist movement partly to blame for more mothers leaving the home to pursue professional careers at the expense of their children? Of course. Even if you disagree, is that such a radical or nonsensical position to hold? On number three, Is college the right path for everyone? I know many people who have been pushed needlessly into college only to end up with tens of thousands of dollars in debt and a tough job market to deal with. Of course, one will have more opportunities with a college education, but do you really think the solution to every single mother's woes is to pack up and go to school? "Seriously, I think you are overreacting here. Just remember to take a deep breath and count to ten from now on whenever you see Santorum's name."

What's Up With Andrew?

Saying the name “Rick Santorum” in a crowd of left-wingers these days brings a response not unlike the roar of contempt directed to Michael Moore at the GOP Convention last year. No big whoop; that's partisanship as usual. But Andrew Sullivan is by no means a leftist, and he’s usually refreshingly post-partisan in his commentary. His work is most often well reasoned, informed, and issue-oriented. All the more disappointing that Sullivan has resorted to the cheapest of cheap shots in his latest writing about Santorum.

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Congressional Leftists Unite!

The Congressional Progressive Caucus is on the march. Comprised of 59 House members from far-left districts who face political jeopardy only when they mistakenly forget to insert "tax increase" into a speech on any subject, the CPC is ready to be "more of a player in a capital city where conservative Republicans are solidly in charge," according to an article in today's San Francisco Chronicle. Top priorities: Mandatory universal health care, bring home the troops now, stop media consolidation. Nothing new there, but these italicised passages from the article offer some interesting glimpses into the mindset of the far congressional left. "This is a reinvigoration. It shows our understanding of where the country is," said one of the caucus' two co-chairs, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D- Petaluma. "Democrats are hungry to hear their voice.''
Democratic voters in the 59 most liberal districts in America represent the thinking of the nation as a whole? Here's the deal on Woolsey: She really believes that. (I'm guessing she's also on record demanding a recount in the presidential election — the one McGovern lost.)
"Never have I seen our caucus so united," Rep. Barbara Lee said.
All 59 left-wing House members are feeling more united than ever? Wow, there's a headline. Looks like Richard Mellon Scaife better start pumping more cash into the Vast Right-wing Conspiracy, and fast.
It was clear they are all hungry for action. "We like it when someone says no to George Bush,'' John Nichols, the Nation's Washington correspondent, told the throng.
Free advice to the left: America is already aware that you know how to say "No." America is waiting to hear whether you can say anything else.
The Progressive Caucus ... is one of dozens of caucuses boosting all kinds of causes and concerns, from wine and hunting to the Balkans and African Americans.
OK, so I get the first three issues. But can someone explain to me how African Americans as a demographic category constitute either a "cause" or a "concern"? Any guesses about how the Progressive Caucus would respond if Trent Lott were to cite "White People" as a cause or concern?
The event was sponsored by a swarm of liberal groups eager to take on conservatives. They included MoveOn.org, the Nation magazine, the American Civil Liberties Union, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Americans for Democratic Action, the Human Rights Campaign, Peace Action and Hip Hop Caucus, and a host of others.
Welcome to the team, "Hip Hop Caucus." Nice to see the left finally reaching out. Can I start laughing now?

Comet Busting Causes Oppression

A Russian astrologist is suing NASA for "ruining the natural balance of forces in the universe" by busting a hole in a comet, thus "deforming her horoscope" and causing "moral sufferings." Laugh, but the astrologist's claim actually gives great insight (probably unintentionally) into the left's consistent worldview, where morality and ethics — to the extent that they are worth discussing — are always at the effect of external, material events. This is not to say the Russian astrologist is necessarily a left nutcase, but her assertion sounds a lot like the left's typical recourse to objective causation: "I am oppressed by external circumstances." But of course, even when external circumstances change — for instance, when Jim Crow laws get outlawed — the refrain stays largely the same: "I am oppressed by the historial residue of external circumstances." Maybe leftists just have bad karma — like from all the blood spilled in the name of creating a perfect Utopian state based on absolute equality?