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Saturday, July 30, 2005

MORE HILLARY: Dana Pico of Common Sense Political Thought somewhat disagrees with my speculations about the Hillary Clinton's Roberts strategy:
My question would be: if Senatrix Clinton is trying to sound more moderate ... to ... pick off a red state, why would she vote against Mr. Roberts unless her vote would be one that would actually defeat his confirmation?
Here's my thinking on that. Hillary needs to continue sounding moderate (hence her laudatory remarks about Roberts' background and qualifications) but she also needs to make symbolic gestures to the left wing of her party (like casting key votes they approve of). Granted, this is a tricky balancing act, one she'll need to negotiate continuously in the months to come. I agree with Dana that, as a senator, Hillary's voting record will be exploited by the GOP nominee in 2008, just as Kerry's was last year. A vote against Roberts could hurt her in red states. But she's banking on her increasingly moderate rhetoric creating a general impression with the electorate that she's a reasonable, common-sense, consensus-seeking kind of gal. At this point I would say Hillary is actually more likely to vote against Roberts precisely because he stands to be confirmed by a decent margin. Of course, with many weeks to go before the Senate votes on the confirmation a lot could change. The left may decide to go all out to defeat Roberts, in which case Hillary may decide she needs to vote for Roberts so she doesn't look like she's part of a lynch mob. Bottom line: Hillary's vote will be based solely on political calculations — and she may not make up her mind until the very end. Obviously it's not too early to ruminate about what may happen in 2008, but it's still very true that a lot can and will happen between now and then — as Howard Dean will surely attest. Assuming Rehnquist retires this fairly soon, Bush may get a second justice on the Supreme Court. If that happens, Roe v. Wade is likely to keep getting nibbled at. That's sure to please the anti-abortion GOP base, but it may make swing moderate voters (especially women) nervous about the Republicans and, to that extent, more willing to consider Hillary. The biggest percentage gain for Bush in 2004 was married, white women. Will they reward or punish the GOP if the scope of Roe gets narrowed? Here's a heretical thought: I'm not altogether persuaded Hillary's got a lock on the Democratic nominaton, anyhow. Bill Clinton was and is a political natural; Hillary's shrill and (as Nixon said after meeting her) cold. Taking Hillary's full measure on the campaign stump in 2008, the Democrats may decide not to close the deal. Sure, she's way ahead now; but again, remember Dean.

Friday, July 29, 2005

HILLARY'S PLOY: Keep your eye out for Hillary's double strategy. On the one hand, she'll praise Roberts' qualifications, background, and temperament — even to the point of letting it be leaked that she'll probably vote to confirm the Supreme Court nominee. (Notice her recent statement that she intends to keep an open mind, suspend judgment, intended to distance her from Boxer and Mikulski.) On the other hand, watch Hillary end up voting against Roberts when the roll is called, doing so with little fanfare.Read more »
THE FAIRNESS SEDUCTION: The anti-Roberts campaign are attempting to gain a moral advantage in the nomination fight by claiming to represent "fairness." What's amazing is that Roberts' supporters seem to be taking the bait — for instance, by releasing the 70,000 pages of documents (many of which were already in the public domain). Of course, that's not enough for Schumer, Kennedy, and Boxer; their goal being to defeat the Roberts nomination. They stand little chance of succeeding, yet it's hard to figure out why the White House succumbed to the demand to start releasing documents. NRO weighs in: “Having already given too much, [the president] should give no more.”
At issue here is an important principle that the Bush administration has, until now, consistently fought for: the necessary confidentiality of deliberations at the highest levels of the executive branch. If the candid internal discussions of high-ranking government officials are regularly disclosed, those discussions will quickly cease to be so candid. This is exactly what seven former Democratic and Republican solicitors general wrote when a similar fight over Justice Department documents arose in the context of Miguel Estrada’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals: “Our decisionmaking process required the unbridled, open exchange of ideas — an exchange that simply cannot take place if attorneys have reason to fear that their private recommendations are not private at all, but vulnerable to public disclosure.” Senators should have plenty to read between now and the time of Roberts’s confirmation hearing in late August or September. The White House should hold firm, and add no more to their reading list.
Almost certainly the senators now shouting loudest about documents have already decided to vote against Roberts. Their only real hope at this point is to poison the process as a means of driving down Roberts' margin of victory, so that he goes to the court surrounded by a cloud of controversy like Clarence Thomas. The Constitution spells out the Senate's role: to advise and consent. Every senator had a chance to advise the president, now each member must decide whether to give consent. "Fairness" means allowing the hearings to go forward, and then the Senate deciding — period.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

FEUDING DEMS: Hillary's continuing quest to capture middle ground isn't playing well with the activists who play a decisive role in Democratic primaries. Byron York's latest NRO piece offers glimpses of a political party that's hard to distinguish from a dysfunctional family.
“It’s truly disappointing that this is the crap Hillary has signed on to,” Moulitsas concluded. “More of the failed corporatist bullshit that has cost our party so dearly in the last decade and a half.” By the “last decade and a half,” Moulitsas apparently meant the period in which the DLC helped jettison the Democratic Party’s soft-on-crime, soft-on-defense, soft-on-everything image, allowing Bill Clinton to win the White House. Now that’s some failed corporatist bullshit.
GOP strategists no doubt love this stuff, but they shouldn't bet on keeping the White House based solely on the Democrats' death wish. Even if the Roberts confirmation goes well, the president will still have two years left in his term. His Social Security campaign didn't play well in Peoria. What will the White House do as an encore? Do they have a bold initiative in mind? Maybe Steve Forbes' tax plan?
DEFEATING ROBERTS: Power Line summarizes Schumer's strategy:
Create procedural disputes by demanding that the White House produce documents that every living former solicitor general has said ought not to be produced. Insist on answers to questions that Justice Ginsburg steadfastly refused to answer. Hope that this gets you enough traction to delay the process. Use the delay time to dig for dirt, as they tried to do with Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.
PRIORITIES: Kathy McCormack, a sadist who is also a reporter, wants us to know that the 2008 N.H. Primary Isn't All That Far Off. As if there aren't more important things than presidential politics. Like ice cream:
From the traditional vanilla wrapped in a homemade waffle cone to fresh strawberry chunks blended into soft-serve mixed with bananas, city ice cream vendors are treating the community to cold-hearted ways to cope with an otherwise boiling globe.
WHY THEY HATE US: No, not the Islamists. Why do so many Americans, particularly soldiers, hate the media? Minnesota journalist Mark Yost has much to say in a column arguing that negative press reporting about Iraq ignores positive developments.
[W]here are the stories on nearly every VFW and American Legion hall that’s actively supporting the troops? What about their stories? Instead, we get Monday’s front-page story about a “secret“ memo about “emerging U.S. plans” to withdraw troops next year. Why isn’t the focus of the story the fact that 14 of 18 Iraqi provinces are stable and the four that aren’t are primarily home to the genocidal gang of thugs who terrorized that country for 30 years? And reporters wonder why they’re despised.
MULTICULTURAL MYOPIA: The "all cultures are equivalent" movement can be credited at best with believing this applies to cultures that are roughly similar: say Denmark and Sweden. The tune changes when cultures with very different foundations are brought into close proximity, says Janet Albrechtsen:
Advocating multiculturalism for people from cultures with similar values was never going to be problematic. But when cultures differ sharply, multicultural policies that promote all cultures as equal lead us in all sorts of wrong directions. A young Aboriginal woman points to tribal law to excuse her for killing her philandering husband. An educated man, the father of a group of Pakistani gang rapists, claims they did not understand our culture. Finally, more of us are saying "Hang on, some values are non-negotiable." Perhaps we can draw a shade on the '60s view that all cultures are equal. That utopian-driven decade is drawing to a close on other fronts too. Welfare is not all it's cracked up to be. No-fault divorce has not been the blessing it promised to be. It seems we may be growing up, learning to draw a line in at least some of the right places. Who knows which of the '60s sacred cows will be next?
WE'RE TAKING YOUR LAND: John Revelli's family has a run a business since 1949. On July 1, the city of Oakland, California evicted him from his own property so that a private developer could build apartments on his land. The city also evicted Tony Fung, Revelli's next-door neighbor. Deborah J. Saunders of the SF Chronicle writes:
"I am a first-generation immigrant, " Fung told me. "This is my American dream."To hell with Fung's dream -- the City of Oakland seized it, so that someone else can build on it. And without offering enough money for Fung to relocate his business, he says.The city has legions of lawyers to press its case, while Fung says he has to scrape together pennies to hire an attorney."There's no way a small guy like me is able to fight that," Fung noted. He has lost his business, his property and the belief that private property is truly private in the United States. That last item -- belief in the system - - was destroyed in June, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that governments can seize private property to give it to private developers. Somehow that sweetheart deal constitutes "public use" -- maybe because city government grows richer through increased tax revenue.
For a long time, conservatives put their faith in local as opposed to federal government. The time has come to rethink the assumption that municipal politicians are more likely than federal to follow the original understanding of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. But city councils and city managers can and often do act against that understanding when it suits their purpose. The Oakland City Council voted 6-1 to authorize the eminent-domain seizure against Revelli and Fung. More evidence that "judicial activism" per se is not the problem, but rather activism that runs counter to the Framers' clearly specified intent. Hopefully a reformulated Supreme Court will take the first opportunity to overturn its June decision that governments can seize private property to give it to private developers to produce optimal tax revenue. Until that happens, Congress needs to act.
BLAIR BECOMES CHURCHILL: The British prime minister's comments about the danger we face leave no doubt about its magnitude: "We must pull this up by its roots." Blair nails it:
We must be clear about how we win this struggle. We should take what security measures we can. But let us not kid ourselves. In the end, it is by the power of argument, debate, true religious faith and true legitimate politics that we will defeat this threat. That means not just arguing against their terrorism, but their politics and their perversion of religious faith. It means exposing as the rubbish it is, the propaganda about America and its allies wanting to punish Muslims or eradicate Islam. It means championing our values of freedom, tolerance and respect for others. It means explaining why the suppression of women and the disdain for democracy are wrong.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

PATRIOT ACT: When it comes to civil liberties, my instincts tend to be broadly libertarian. I vote for freedom. Freedom and security, however, are best understood as dance partners: one leads while the other goes with the flow. Most of the time I want freedom to be the alpha dancer. Our need to be smart and effective toward Islamist fascism is no ordinary dance. For that reason I favor the extention of the Patriot Act with this proviso: the legislation should include a sunset provision. Though I believe defeating the merchants of terror and the ideology they represent is likely to be a long-term mission, I'm just not comfortable with the idea of making the Patriot Act permanent. How often do governments hand back freedoms? Not often. It's true that when Islamist terror no longer exists — when that day comes — Congress can always revoke the Patriot Act entirely. But I prefer an approach that actively reconsiders the Act's provisions each time the sunset provisions approach. Still and all, I'm with Ed Koch when he says: Patriot Act Imperfect, But Desperately Needed In Time of War.
DURBIN WATCH: Speaking of social skills run amuck, apparently Dick Durbin wasn't satisfied with the ignominy he earned when he compared American soldiers to the troops of Hilter and Pol Pot. Durbin's attempt to smear John Roberts backfired fast. Power Line Blog has the scoop: A Planted Story Gone Bad.
PROGRESSIVE PENGUINS?: Can these remarkable birds teach us the importance of working together for the common good? Yes, says op-ed writer Terry Leach, who goes on to declare what we mere humans must learn from penguins: "[T]he individual's needs, be they to eat or stay warm, must come second to the all-important goal of survival of the next generation." She follows that recitation of standard socialist ideology with a case study in class envy driven by rage against anything and everything associated with George W. Bush:
Right now, the Bush administration is extolling the unifying theme that those who "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" (or, more likely, those who've inherited a bundle) don't owe a dime to their less fortunate fellow human beings or to the next generation. The newly rich and the already rich are on a tear, ladies and gentlemen, and God help anyone who gets in their way. Passing their time reading, for example, the Financial Times magazine, How to Spend It, these first-class citizens learn how to buy yachts, jewelry and additional homes along with jets to travel between their residences. But nowhere in this or in many similar publications will the nascent rich philanthropist learn how to establish a foundation or otherwise redistribute his or her wealth. Certainly there will be no discussion of the ruinous economic ramifications of destroying the middle class that provides the lions' share of a society's nurses, teachers and police officers, let alone a discussion of the moral issues inherent in a widening gap between the very rich and everyone else.
All this is obvious, Leach says, from watching the behavior of penguins. Conversely, perhaps the species behavior of lemmings stands to teach us important things about the social skills of left-wing activists? But don't let the writer's rant discourage you from seeing March of the Penguins, an excellent documentary about the mating habits of a remarkable species.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

TAMMY BRUCE: One of the smartest, most principled and articulate voices for social and cultural sanity has just finished her third book (due out in November), The New American Revolution : Using the Power of the Individual to Save Our Nation from Extremists. If you're already familiar withTammy's work as an author and national talk radio host, you know you're in for a treat. But if you've not yet encountered Tammy's fiercely independent mind and uncompromising commitment to common sense — well, hold on to your hat. She's in a league of her own. Here's from her Web site:
Tammy Bruce is an openly gay, pro-choice, gun owning, pro-death penalty, voted-for-President Bush progressive feminist. She was drawn into feminist activism in the late 1980's to contribute to the ongoing effort to ensure safe and legal abortion for all women. Just two years after joining the National Organization for Women, and with a brand of feminism that places her somewhere between Donna Reed and Thelma and Louise, Ms. Bruce was elected president of the Los Angeles chapter of NOW at the age of 27. The youngest ever to achieve that position, she doubled the chapter's membership from 2,000 to 4,000 within a year with issue campaigns that introduced a fresh view of feminist activism. In her seven years as president (1990-1996, the longest continuous tenure in the chapter's 30 year history) she mobilized activists locally and nationally on a whole range of issues, including women's image in media, child care, health care, violence against women, economics, and domestic violence. Ms. Bruce also served two years as a member of the National NOW board of directors. Ms. Bruce's first book, The New Thought Police, was published by Forum, an imprint of Crown/Random House, in October 2001. An analysis of freedom of expression and the culture wars, it explores the importance of freedom of expression and personal liberty and how that liberty is under attack by the dangerous rise of Left-wing McCarthyism. Her second book, The Death of Right and Wrong: Exposing the Left's Assault on Our Culture and Values, also for Forum (April 2003) addresses the rise of moral relativism in society and quickly became a New York Times best seller.
Tammy is a liberal in the best and original sense: a true progressive who has seen firsthand how reactionary the Left has become and who knows that there's no force on Earth as potentially transformative as individual consciousness. Tammy is also a regular contributor at NewsMax, where her latest column, The Increasingly Ugly Left, is Tammy Bruce at her take-no-prisoners best. As soon as I get my hands on an advance copy of Tammy's new book, I'll be sure to review it here.
MORE ROBERTS: Howard Kurtz with a succinct overview of positive MSM news coverage with the theme: Roberts will be hard to beat. Columnist Paul Campos thinks senators should demand that Roberts ask their questions:
Imagine if during last fall's presidential debates the candidates had refused to answer specific questions about what they would do about various controversial issues, but instead insisted on giving only general answers regarding their "political philosophies." It goes without saying that the public wouldn't tolerate such behavior, nor would anyone in the political establishment or the media defend it.
Campos's analogy is useful because it's so wrong-headed. It's entirely appropriate to expect detailed issue-oriented answers from political candidates. And it's to be expected that Democrats want Roberts to be specific. How many times must it be said: Supreme Court justices aren't legislators. Because the Left is so committed to (ahem) "fairness," they should be willing to adopt what Hugh Hewitt correctly calls the Ginsburg Precedent:
"I prefer not to answer questions like that; again, to talk in grand terms about principles that have to be applied in concrete cases. I like to reason from the specific case," was the response of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Patrick Leahy's 1993 question to then nominee Judge Ginsburg on which of the two religion clauses of the First Amendment was subordinate to the other.
PROFILING: It's controversial but done correctly it's effective, says this New York Post op-ed (registration required). Ask the Israelis:
Following a spate of terrorist hijackings and other attacks on civilian aircraft and airports in the late 1960s and '70s, Israel developed a security system that utilized sociological profiles of those seeking to harm Israelis, among other factors. The American system developed at the same time relied primarily on technology like scanning devices, which checked people and baggage uniformly. Facing a less benign threat, Israelis found this system insufficient: Explosives and other weapons could slip through too easily. Since it wasn't feasible to perform extensive security searches on every passenger, Israel used sociological profiles in addition to screening devices: Each passenger is questioned briefly and then airport security personnel use their judgment to identify suspect would-be passengers, who are then questioned at greater length and their bags searched more thoroughly. It is targeted and far more effective than random searches, which end up being nearly cosmetic. Screening and random searches would not have averted the tragedy that profiling stopped on April 17, 1986. Anne-Marie Murphy, a pregnant Irish woman, was traveling alone to Israel to meet her fiancé's parents. Her bags went through an X-ray machine without problems, and she and her passport appeared otherwise unremarkable.
The random-search method in the U.S. is ineffective, says writer Yishai Ha'etzni: "The American system's "blindness" cuts off the most important weapon in the war against terrorism: Human capability, judgment and perception. Now that the United States faces a higher threat, it cannot afford to neglect those tools."

Monday, July 25, 2005

WHERE'S BOLTON? Rumors were hot that Bush would send Bolton to the U.N. by recess appointment. Maybe the president doesn't want to roil the waters by making a move that would incite Biden and other Bolton detractors. Truth be told, I have no problem with America not having a U.N. ambassador — it makes a fairly clear statement about the value of the organization.
ROBERTS' RISING FORTUNES: I'm not buying the mainstream media's spin to the effect that the Democrats have accepted that Roberts is a nominee they can't derail. To be sure, the positive comments of centrist senators like Feinstein are probably sincere. You can be sure, however, that the left wing of the party will leave no stone unturned in the coming weeks to find evidence that gives them the rationale to go all out against this nomination. The reasoning on the left goes like this: "We've got to go after Roberts very hard, because if he refuses to get specific during the hearings (as Ruth Bader Ginsburg did), we'll have no logical basis for going ballistic against Bush's next nominee, who will probably be more ideological." It's important to be clear-eyed about the fact that the left knows the Supreme Court is their last hope at this point, for advancing an agenda by judicial fiat that the American people continue to reject: especially on hot-button social issues. So if the Dems seem to be playing nice now, their goal is to look and sound moderate so that when they go for blood it won't look like that was their strategy all along. In particular, watch Barbara Boxer. Her vicious personal attack against Condi Rice was Sunday school stuff, compared to what she'll try against Roberts. Even so, it's hard to figure how the Dems can defeat Roberts, who appears to be eminently unborkable. Even Senator Byrd is singing his praises, perhaps because the old coot plans to run for re-election and his popularity among the folks back home has dropped considerably.
HILLARY'S CALCULATION: Regular readers know I'm no fan. But simply from the standpoint of political strategy I have to take my hat off to her. Sen. Clinton's speech today in Ohio was close to brilliant, given her obvious strategy of moving to middle ground. This stuff in particular will play well with voters weary of partisan excess:
"All too often we have allowed ourselves to be split between left, right and center," she said of Democrats. "It's high time for a cease-fire." Echoing one of her husband's favorite lines, she said Democrats should stop "accepting the false logic of false choices that keep our party and our country divided."
This, too, is quite good:
She referred to faith in God, shared values and a desire to "protect our children from the excesses of the popular culture."
Hillary's on a roll, and obviously it's a role — but if she keeps playing this tune for the next year a half, she may actually succeed in remaking herself. She couldn't ask for a better mentor than her husband, whose '92 candidacy looked doomed after the Jennifer Flowers story hit the headlines. If you're not quite sure which one Jennifer Flowers was, that's the point. A whole lot of Americans won't remember and won't care what Hillary wanted to do to America's health care system in 1994. If she keeps singing this centrist tune, it won't matter. Nor will her decided lack of charisma, or even simple human warmth, necessarily hurt be a problem. Nixon made it to the White House only six years after he declared, "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore, because ... this is my last press conference." But there are differences as well. For one, Nixon's 1968 victory was stage-managed in a way that simply isn't possible in a 24/7 news cycle. Also, it's wise to bear in mind two other Democratic frontrunners: Ed Muskie, Gary Hart, and of course Howard Dean.
Pete Dupont says Western Europe is reverting to bad historical habits:
Simply put, Old Europe's thinking today is that of 1930s, when the Oxford Union voted "under no circumstances [to] fight for King and Country," and British PM Neville Chamberlain believed appeasement should be the policy and "peace in our time" the goal. Winston Churchill had the better understanding: "You ask what is our aim? I can answer that in one word, victory at all costs, victory in spite of terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival." He was talking of Hitler and Nazi Germany, of course, but without victory there will be no survival against Islamic terrorism either.
(Source: "Shoring Up the Western Front: Is Old Europe finally learning that it must join the global war on terror?")
FEDERALIST BIAS: Critics of John Roberts want to know whether the nominee ever held a membership in the Federalist Society. If so, his objectivity may be "compromised" because the organization has been critical of recent Supreme Court rulings. One voice in my political mind hopes it turns out that Roberts was never actually a member — less ammunition for Schumer's cheap shots. Another part of my political brain says: Bring it on. The Federalist Society says it is "founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be." Meanwhile, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was counsel to the ACLU, a group whose current priority is to ensure that captured terrorists are happy with their air-conditioned cells and enjoying meals including orange-glazed chicken, fresh fruit, steamed peas and mushrooms, and rice pilaf. If Roberts' nomination comes down to how most Americans feel about the two organizations' missions, any bets on how the vote will turn out?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

CONCEPTUAL CLARITY: Washington Post columnist Colbert King uses about 700 words to convey this high-level, sophisticated, complex, out-of-the box epiphany: If Democrats want to influence the selection of Supreme Court nominees, they'll need to start winning more (or stop losing so many) U.S. Senate races. What evidence does King cite for this extraorindary hypothesis? His research revealed that senators get to confirm justices! Way to go, Colbert. We look forward to future hard-hitting, counterintuitive articles: "More people go swimming outdoors during heat waves than during ice storms" and "According to many astronomers, the big vast space that starts above the trees is called sky." Maybe I'm being too hard on King. Possibly the Democrats actually need to be reminded that their influence in selecting Supreme Court candidates is directly related to their capacity to persuade the American people that they can be trusted with political power.
MODERATELY IRONIC: If John Roberts is truly a "moderate" (as many pro-choice advocates say they hope), that's not good news for Planned Parenthood and NARAL, says John Whelan at National Review Online. Whelan's analysis of three broad stances toward the constitutionality of abortion leads him to conclude that the genuinely moderate position on abortion take a neutralist stance — meaning that because the Constitution is silent on abortion, the states should decide. That's also the view of Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas. Whelan's main point:
Increasing numbers of observers across the political spectrum are coming to recognize that it is well past time for the Supreme Court to restore abortion policy to the people and to the political processes in the states. As Scalia observed in his Casey dissent, the Supreme Court's unconstitutional power grab on the abortion issue in Roe "fanned into life an issue that has inflamed our national politics ever since." "[B]y foreclosing all democratic outlet for the deep passions this issue arouses, by banishing the issue from the political forum that gives all participants, even the losers, the satisfaction of a fair hearing and an honest fight, by continuing the imposition of a rigid national rule instead of allowing for regional differences," the Court has profoundly disrupted the proper functioning of the American political system.
It's not widely realized that one of America's most influential pro-choice jurists believes abortion should never have been removed from the political domain:
In 1993, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg caused a flurry when she ... declared in a speech [that Roe] had "halted a political process that was moving in a reform direction and ... prolonged divisiveness and deferred stable settlement of the issue."
As recently as a year ago, the federalist stance toward abortion ("Let the states decide") was assumed by the pro-choice community to be merely a ploy of the right-to-life movement. Slowly it's becoming clear, even to pro-choice liberals, that a flawed judicial decision is a curse that keeps on giving. This is a far cry from the left acknowleding that it's a mistake to view the Constitution as infinitely elastic. Yet it's significant that more and more self-styled progressives count themselves part of a growing consensus that Roe v. Wade was, indeed, an Olympic legislative act in judicial clothing. History may reveal that the cause of "reproductive rights" was actually damaged by removing the issue from the political realm. How ironic is that?